Mobile // Mobile Business
News
5/31/2014
08:06 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Smartwatch: Nadella's Next Strategy Step?

Microsoft smartwatch rumors heat up again, suggesting a cross-platform strategy that suits CEO Satya Nadella's goals.

Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Microsoft could launch a health-oriented smartwatch as soon as this summer, according to a new report. Intriguingly, the device allegedly will be compatible not only with Windows Phone handsets, but also with iPhones and Android smartphones. A flurry of reports last year claimed Microsoft was developing a smartwatch, but until recently, new details had been scant.

Microsoft's smartwatch will include sensors developed by the company's Xbox Kinect team, according to Forbes, which cited "multiple sources with knowledge of [Microsoft's] plans." The sensors will continuously measure the wearer's heart rate and sync with a smartphone app.

[How is Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's strategy evolving? Read Microsoft's Nadella: We're in 'Post-Post' PC Era.]

According to the sources, the smartwatch will run two days between charges and resembles Samsung's Gear Fit. Microsoft's version will reportedly differ, however, in that its color touchscreen, roughly "the size of half a stick of gum," will be positioned on the underside of the wearer's wrist. This orientation could give the user more privacy when checking notifications, the article said. The device's release date is reportedly unclear, but it could arrive as soon as this summer.

A Microsoft smartwatch patent, originally filed in 2012, came to light this month. It describes a device with a touch display positioned atop the wearer's wrist, like a traditional watch. The underside of the display includes an optical light sensor to measure various health-related metrics. The document also says the display unit can be removed -- a tactic designed to make the wristband easier to clean.

Microsoft's smartwatch will allegedly resemble Samsung's Gear Fit.
Microsoft's smartwatch will allegedly resemble Samsung's Gear Fit.

In April 2013, The Wall Street Journal, citing supply chain sources, reported that Microsoft was sourcing components for a smartwatch, rumored at the time to feature a 1.5-inch touchscreen. Several publications ran additional reports the following July. The new rumors claimed that smartwatch development had moved from the Xbox team to the Surface team, and that the device would feature a removable wristband, which would be available in several colors.

Microsoft hasn't commented on its alleged smartwatch. That said, several of new CEO Satya Nadella's early appearances have included broad references to wearable devices and the Internet of Things. A December study also revealed some of Microsoft's research with health-related wearable devices, in this case a mood-monitoring smart bra prototype. That device, which imposed a number of inconveniences on wearers, was designed more for its research value than its real-world viability. Even so, Microsoft technology will probably end up on users' wrists sooner than later, whether through hardware or some new iteration of Windows.

Microsoft has said little about its wearable technology strategy, but its research shows the company is interested.
Microsoft has said little about its wearable technology strategy, but its research shows the company is interested.

If Microsoft releases a wearable product this summer, it will join a market just starting to heat up. Sony, Samsung, Google, and several other big names are already active in this space. Startup sensations such as Pebble only make the nascent market more competitive. Samsung recently announced the Samsung Digital Health Initiative, an open hardware and open software platform designed to turn the health data that wearable devices collect into useful insights.

Still, no one has released a breakthrough product, and Microsoft might feel it's the right time to strike. The cross-platform strategy mentioned in the new report would certainly be consistent with Nadella's tactics so far, exemplified by products such as the Office for iPad suite. The strategy also makes practical sense. Windows Phone is still a distant third in the smartphone race, which means that any Windows Phone-smartwatch exclusivity could alienate millions of would-be buyers. If the device works well with all popular smartphones, however, Microsoft could carve out a big presence in a growing market.

Apple is also rumored to be working on the so-called iWatch, which supply-chain analysts expect will launch this year. The company has recently hired several high-profile employees from the fashion, fitness, and medical technology industries, which has only increased anticipation.

IT is turbocharging BYOD, but mobile security practices lag behind the growing risk. Also in the Mobile Security issue of InformationWeek: These seven factors are shaping the future of identity as we move to a digital world (free registration required).

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
jgherbert
50%
50%
jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2014 | 1:02:31 PM
And...?
"a mood-monitoring smart bra prototype"

I loved it when this news came out; it gave an all new new meaning to the word "underwired".

Clearly there's a big interest from the major players in the personal health / wearable technology arenas. My issue so far is that the offerings are generally just so ugly I can't imagine wearing them. That said, it was a little shocking then to read the reports that Nike were canning their FuelBand product. Are they simply buddying up to Apple again? Maybe acknowledging that they just can't compete with the various smartphone makers (e.g. Samsung, Apple, Microsoft) who are planning or have released their own products? I'd understand that - it's hard to play in a field where you're up against people who can control both the wearable device and a mobile "partner" device.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/31/2014 | 1:45:18 PM
Re: And...?
I think you're right about Nike. It makes more sense for them to cozy up to Apple than to try to compete on their own. Wearables are going to be big ecosystem plays, and I'm not sure Nike wants to go against the big guns in that space.
jgherbert
50%
50%
jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2014 | 1:52:34 PM
Re: And...?
Indeed. And has been pointed out many times, Nike always had a pretty tight relationship with Apple's iPhone form the get go, so perhaps it's not such a step down in some ways. They never stepped away from the iPhone App and kept developing it (though they also made an Android version, tsk!).

Maybe Apple should just buy Nike's digital division?
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2014 | 10:59:59 PM
limited
I'm all for wearable devices. Nonetheless, Microsoft "could launch" a device that seems limited already, Isn't Samsung coming with a smartwatch that works as a stand-alone phone in a few months?
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 6:42:02 PM
Re: limited
Indeed, but I'm not sure Samsung is taking the right approach. Phone calls from my watch? Maybe I'm missing something, but I could care less-- though I do like the function Apple just revealed that will let you answer iPhone calls on a Mac.

I think smartwatches will have some utility for notifications, and perhaps even placing and receiving calls. But I'm much more intrigued by the health aspects. No wearables manufacturer has really cracked it yet, and I suspect Apple, rather than Microsoft, will be the first, given the resources they seem to be pouring into it.  But as someone who lost over 100 pounds after graduating from college, I can testify: Technology can make a difference in people's lives if it makes them aware of their health and progress. If we soon have devices that move beyond step-counting and heart rate monitors into advanced biometrics, it will change the way we approach fitness, if not medicine in general. That said, I am fearful of the "webMD effect" in which technology gives people partial or bad information, leading them to believe they have ailments that they don't.
moarsauce123
0%
100%
moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
6/1/2014 | 8:28:21 AM
Another flop product?
Smart watches flopped for every manufacturer so far. They are the solution to a problem that doesn't exist plus they are quite expensive. People already do not buy smart watches and they surely will not spend hundreds of dollars for one from Microsoft.
Gary_EL
50%
50%
Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
6/1/2014 | 8:32:41 PM
Re: Another flop product?
I agree.

>> solution to a problem that doesn't exist

I can just see it now - Hordes of junior diagnosticians besieging their doctors with reams of questionable data taken with an uncertified device by individuals with no clinical background. An unhappy time for all.


This is a class of device that certainly has a future, but it must come from the clinicians to the patients, not the patients to the clinicians. The cart should take its traditional place behind the horse.
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 4:29:44 PM
Re: Another flop product?
The huge problem here is that clinicians don't have time to spend with patients already; isn't the average face time about 7 minutes or 10 minutes? For this personal data to be useful and usable, someone must figure out a way to send an easily digestible version of the data to clinicians. As one doctor told me -- perhaps a green checkmark to indicate a patient has done enough exercise for the past month, eaten nutritiously, etc.? And a red X in those areas s/he was non-compliant. This would pop up on the patient's EHR when they walked into the room and not a moment sooner! We know doctors aren't going to wade through reams of data about each patient's daily habits. There's no reason they should.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 7:18:19 AM
Re: Another flop product?
That kind of simplification is what many products are missing.  We went through an era of "let me show you everything we can do" and applications got incredibly cluttered.  I can see a very simple application for use in a medical setting that is color coded so that a doctor can quickly skim past all the green lines and follow up on the red lines or that issues can be grouped based on that color coding. 
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 10:48:05 AM
Re: Another flop product?
Yes, I agree @SaneIT, about giving clinicians a traffic-light-like color scheme: Red meaning stop, green meaning go, and yellow meaning caution on a smartwatch or other wearable. The same kind of system works with other verticals too. Who isn't pressed for time these days?!
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 6:48:47 PM
Re: Another flop product?
"I can just see it now - Hordes of junior diagnosticians besieging their doctors with reams of questionable data taken with an uncertified device by individuals with no clinical background. An unhappy time for all."


This is the "webMD effect" I was talking about in my other post. That said, if a company can provide useful and reliable data, it will be a breakthrough. I can understand why so many companies are pouring resources into this line of research; when someone finally cracks it, the benefits could be immense. I was impressed that Apple hooked up with the Mayo Clinic, which brings iWatch effort at least the perception (hopefully more) of medical legitimacy. We might be many years away from wearable devices that connect to the cloud and measure changes in biometrics against our genomic code (or something equally sci-fi)-- but if a device-maker chooses the right metrics (i.e. ones that can be usefully and accurately tracked), I think it will be a huge deal. When I see Samsung tout a watch that makes phone calls, that's when I think "solution without a problem." But health care is a big problem, and sooner or later, wearables will be part of the solution.
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/5/2014 | 9:11:15 AM
Re: Another flop product?
Wearables will definitely be part of the healthcare solution. We already see some healthcare providers experimenting with "prescribing" wearables to at-risk patients such as teen diabetics; while insurance doesn't cover these fitness bands, hospitals/clinics are using research grants to donate the bands to financially disadvantaged youths. Once we see better apps that'll be even more useful, since studies show the majority of people across the financial spectrum have smartphones and there are already government programs in place to get these phones in the hands of the poor. Physicians need a manageable way to review this data. One doctor suggested to me a traffic light solution: Red lights to alert doctors to areas in which patients were failing (say, they weren't exercising enough) and green lights to show they were following directions (for example, monitoring their glucose levels correctly) so docs didn't have to go through data day-by-day -- an impossible task!

In addition, we need clearcut rules to protect patients' data. Right now, does anyone know how their personal information is collected, stored, or used by these wearable makers? Does anyone know if these vendors can change their ToS on a whim (as one company notably did recently when it was acquired by a larger firm)? Vendors can anonymize then sell this data and, while that may be fine by most people, I'd like to see a way for users to easily opt-in or, at least, opt-out at any time they choose. Not sure if that's the case today across all these developers, but i sincerely doubt it!
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 4:30:18 AM
Re: Another flop product?
"Smart watches flopped for every manufacturer so far. They are the solution to a problem that doesn't exist plus they are quite expensive. People already do not buy smart watches and they surely will not spend hundreds of dollars for one from Microsoft."

Moarsauce123, you are right about failure of smart watches/ that's the reason Samsung added mobile functionality along with smart watches (Samsung Gear) for Galaxy S3 & S4. Its seems to be great success and MS is doing the same thing.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 7:38:42 AM
Re: Another flop product?
I came here to make those same points.  There is a reason that Samsung isn't relying on the connection to a smart phone to have a usable "smart" watch.  I know that the first version is going to leave use wanting since expectations are high but this is headed in the direction that I've been waiting for.  If they can work out a Chromecast like solution so that I can push some apps from a smart watch to my laptop/tablet I could see leaving my phone behind.
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 1:24:10 AM
Re: Another flop product?
"I know that the first version is going to leave use wanting since expectations are high but this is headed in the direction that I've been waiting for.  If they can work out a Chromecast like solution so that I can push some apps from a smart watch to my laptop/tablet I could see leaving my phone behind."

saneIT, I think it may happen gradually when market demands more and technology get matured.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 7:21:31 AM
Re: Another flop product?
@Gigi3, 

No doubt it will take a couple steps to get there, but we're already seeing that other companies are one step ahead of Microsoft in the development of usable wearables.  Many of the current generation are falling short because once the newness wears off there is nothing utilitarian that people are using habitually.  If a smart watch could let me quickly skim my emails and text messages without needing my phone nearby I'd start wearing a watch because that is what 90% of my smart phone use is and I'd be looking at the watch as a way to replace my smartphone.

 
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 10:59:41 AM
Re: Another flop product?
@SaneIT and @Gigi3: I have wondered whether people will wear smartwatches, but that's a personal issue because I don't like watches! Have more people stopped wearing them because they now carry phones? And would smartwatches reverse that trend? 

 
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 7:31:24 AM
Re: Another flop product?
I think once the watches are refined enough people will start wearing them but the smart phone is going to be hard to unseat.  It is going to be harder to walk and read messages on your wrist than it is on a phone.  I suspect that bluetooth headsets connected to the watches and Siri like controls will be used to make the smart watches a less visually intrusive option.  
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/5/2014 | 9:18:08 AM
Re: Another flop product?
I suppose wearing a watch is more convenient than carrying something in your pocket or purse, although there is a behavioral change required. When I looked into watch sales (something I've not researched before), they are actually going up, according to Euromonitor International. In the US, 2013 sales were $7.2 billion and total watch sales are expected to grow 30% by 2017, the research firm predicts. It's due, in part, to the high price of luxury watches like Rolex. People typically buy one nice watch instead of several watches, as they did in the past (one for work, one dressy one, etc.), the article in MarketWatch said. Smartwatches are most likely to replace multi-purpose watches but shouldn't impact the sale of high-end watches, according to this story. 

That makes sense to me. If you wear a watch as a piece of jewelry or as a status symbol, then an iWatch or a Samsung smartwatch probably won't have the same effect as a $10K Rolex or a diamond and gold watch. If, however, you're wearing a watch because you need it to do specific tasks -- tell time, act as a stopwatch, be a compass, etc. -- then a smartwatch that can do these jobs and more could be a much better alternative.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/6/2014 | 7:11:27 AM
Re: Another flop product?
I'm seeing a lot of the first batch of not so smart watches on wrists around here as well as the fitness bands that send data to a smart phone.  I think we went through a phase where the watch just seemed antiquated and we joked about not needing a watch because you were already carrying something that keeps time.  While that may be true there are also a lot of us who are trying to put down the phone and spend less time looking at it so digging it out of a pocket to check the time is counterproductive to that goal.  
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 3:31:16 AM
Re: Another flop product?
"No doubt it will take a couple steps to get there, but we're already seeing that other companies are one step ahead of Microsoft in the development of usable wearables.  Many of the current generation are falling short because once the newness wears off there is nothing utilitarian that people are using habitually"

SaneIT, we won't be able to say that MS is too late in market for wearable technologies/devices. As of now only limited companies like Samsung, Sony etc are in market with such devices. So MS and Apple can have their own share with unique devices.  
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 3:31:31 AM
Re: Another flop product?
"If a smart watch could let me quickly skim my emails and text messages without needing my phone nearby I'd start wearing a watch because that is what 90% of my smart phone use is and I'd be looking at the watch as a way to replace my smartphone."

SaneIT, I think for most of the peoples sending and receiving emails are more important than making/receiving calls. In that respect Smart watches are useful, but if it has the facility to receive calls, then it's great.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 7:28:23 AM
Re: Another flop product?
It is funny that the cellular phone has become more of a text based tool than a voice based on.  I make fewer calls as time goes on but I spend more time checking web based data or sending e-mail on my phone.  I don't know that this is typical but for me a quick glance at incoming e-mails would save me a lot of frustration.   If I could scan the first few lines with a quick glance at my wrist I would be happy but I don't want to rely on that watch communicating with another device that I'm carrying around too.  Maybe if it was a cell phone sized device with no display that never left my pocket or backpack I wouldn't mind since they could make the package much smaller if a display wasn't required. 
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 3:50:38 AM
Re: Another flop product?
" I don't know that this is typical but for me a quick glance at incoming e-mails would save me a lot of frustration.   If I could scan the first few lines with a quick glance at my wrist I would be happy but I don't want to rely on that watch communicating with another device that I'm carrying around too."

saneIT, so you want to know which mail is important and junk by scanning few lines through the pop up mails in your wrist watches. My mobile service provider has a similar service, where they will send first few lines of email as SMS to your device. For this you have to put an agreement with the service provider with a nominal monthly fee. So based on importance you can go for the mail through your other devices.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 7:22:37 AM
Re: Another flop product?
That SMS idea isn't bad but I don't want yet another inbox to be checking.  I use an application on my Android phone that gives me the Sender, Subject and about 50 characters of the body at a glance.  If I could move that to my wrist it would be a very useful to me.
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/16/2014 | 12:43:58 AM
Re: Another flop product?
"That SMS idea isn't bad but I don't want yet another inbox to be checking.  I use an application on my Android phone that gives me the Sender, Subject and about 50 characters of the body at a glance.  If I could move that to my wrist it would be a very useful to me."

SaneIT, which app you are using.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/16/2014 | 8:58:39 AM
Re: Another flop product?
I was using GoLauncher and it' widgets but a recent update on my Samsung phone gave me a similar widget with their launcher.  My home screen is split between a calendar widget and the email widget.  From that home screen I can get a quick look at my work day and if I need to reply to anything I can launch my mail app from there.
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/19/2014 | 1:03:49 AM
Re: Another flop product?
"I was using GoLauncher and it' widgets but a recent update on my Samsung phone gave me a similar widget with their launcher.  My home screen is split between a calendar widget and the email widget.  From that home screen I can get a quick look at my work day and if I need to reply to anything I can launch my mail app from there."

saneIT, thanks for this info. I can try with my Samsung S4.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/19/2014 | 8:22:38 AM
Re: Another flop product?
I just got KitKat on my NoteII last night, the Mail widget is still there so your S4 should have the widgets as well.  The standard widgets are pretty good and I often have people asking me how I got the email and calendar summaries on my home screen.  Android widgets are one of the coolest features but also probably the least used.  
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/23/2014 | 3:40:18 AM
Re: Another flop product?
"I just got KitKat on my NoteII last night, the Mail widget is still there so your S4 should have the widgets as well.  The standard widgets are pretty good and I often have people asking me how I got the email and calendar summaries on my home screen.  Android widgets are one of the coolest features but also probably the least used.  "

SaneIT, thanks for this update and this is very useful.
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 4:25:26 AM
Wearable devicess from MS
"Microsoft could launch a health-oriented smartwatch as soon as this summer, according to a new report. Intriguingly, the device allegedly will be compatible not only with Windows Phone handsets, but also with iPhones and Android smartphones. A flurry of reports last year claimed Microsoft was developing a smartwatch, but until recently, new details had been scant."

Micheal, It seems that MS is also venturing in to wearable device segments by diversifying their business from OS and Software to devices. This will help them to be prominent in market and to held their own market portion before Google get flourish the business.
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 4:25:59 PM
Re: Wearable devicess from MS
If Microsoft enters the smartwatch space, it's smart to expand its OS beyond Windows. Consumers don't care about the OS. And when you're talking about something that people wear, they can be especially fickle and especially conscious of how something looks and feels. If I was MS, I'd worry more about aesthetics this time!
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 1:28:15 AM
Re: Wearable devicess from MS
"If Microsoft enters the smartwatch space, it's smart to expand its OS beyond Windows. Consumers don't care about the OS. And when you're talking about something that people wear, they can be especially fickle and especially conscious of how something looks and feels. If I was MS, I'd worry more about aesthetics this time!"

Alison, peoples are always looking for interoperability among devices. Now they are looking for particular OS because they want the compatibility with existing devices.
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.