Microsoft has unveiled its first wearable device that can track a user’s sleep and exercise as well as connect to a health service on smartphones. The Microsoft Band is the embodiment of the new Microsoft, and it’s nothing but ambitious. It’s cloud, and it’s mobile, and it’s productivity.
“It is the most advanced band we have seen in terms of technology on the wrist and it is really designed to do two things: have people live healthier, and be more productive, by having a band that can serve on the opposite side of your watch, worn 24 hours a day, and get some of the most accurate data that you can possibly get.” – Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Devices and Service”
The device is intentionally a wristband, not a smartwatch. It can operate for two days on a single charge and has 10 sensors that can track heart rate, calories, stress and even a person’s sun exposure. The Band and its companion Health app are cross-platform, a distinctive feature in a crowded market where other bands work largely with only one mobile OS. It connects to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and even includes a Starbucks tile so you can stop in for a drink after your workout without needing your wallet. The device retails for $199 on Microsoft Stores in the US.
The company is launching simultaneously Microsoft Health, a multi-platform system for compiling and analyzing all the world’s health data. Health will work with Android Wear watches, Android phones, and the iPhone 6’s motion processor, automatically collecting data from all three. Microsoft has also been working with Jawbone, MapMyFitness, My Fitness Pal, and Runkeeper to import their data. Finally, Microsoft is working with manufacturers on how to build better trackers.
Microsoft’s competition will be steep. The Band will compete in an increasingly overwhelming marketplace, including early entrants such as FitBit and Jawbone, as well as tech giants like Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi. Relying on the combination of fitness and productivity to set itself apart, Microsoft seems committed to turn disparate data points into actionable insights. We shall see.