Microsoft Band Wearable: 9 Key Issues - InformationWeek

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10/31/2014
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Microsoft Band Wearable: 9 Key Issues

Microsoft has packed its wearable Band with advanced sensors, cloud-powered health insights, and an affordable price. Is Microsoft ahead of the curve in this new mobile market?

Wearables At Work: 7 Productivity Apps
Wearables At Work: 7 Productivity Apps
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Is Microsoft finally ahead of the curve in the mobile market? Its smartphone struggles have become the stuff of cautionary tales, but with its Microsoft Band, the company might finally have a mainstream winner.

Yes, Microsoft's wrist-worn, fitness-oriented device looks like some of the models already on the market, such as Samsung's Gear Fit. But many current wearables have been criticized as glorified step-trackers or wrist-worn smartphones. Band, in contrast, promises a different type and depth of functionality.

The device relies not only on a bevy of sensors, but also on machine learning technology cultivated in Microsoft's cloud. Microsoft says this combination will help Band recognize not simply when your heart rate goes up or down, as many wearables already do, but also why the change occurred, what it means, and how the information might be useful.

With its Surface tablets, Microsoft fumbled for nearly two years before finally establishing modest momentum with the Surface Pro 3. With Band, does the company finally have a mobile device that can succeed out of the gate? Here are nine things to consider about Microsoft's new wearable.

Microsoft Band
Microsoft Band

1. Band is competitively priced and available right away.
Though Microsoft claims Band offers the most advanced array of sensors in any wearable, the device is surprisingly budget-friendly at $199. Some Android Wear options are a bit cheaper, but none of these models has yet set the market on fire, at any price. Among upcoming high-end wearables, Fitbit's Surge will run $250 while Apple Watch will start at $349, with some versions likely to cost much, much more.

In addition to being lighter on the wallet than competitors, Band is also available (albeit in limited quantities) right away. Neither Surge nor Apple Watch will hit the market until 2015, meaning Microsoft will have the entire holiday season to tempt shoppers who otherwise might have waited to take the wearables plunge.

2. Microsoft says Band's sensors are extremely accurate.  
As rumored, Band includes a variety of sophisticated sensors, including an optical heart rate sensor, accelerometer, skin temperature sensor, and UV sensor, among others. But sensors are only useful if they collect accurate information. Microsoft claims Band is up to the task. In fact, the company is so confident, it's offering to license Band's 10-sensor modules to third parties so they can build their own devices. Time will tell if Microsoft's sensors are as good as advertised. Apple has made broadly similar claims about the sensor accuracy in its upcoming smartwatch.

Microsoft Band includes 10 sensors.
Microsoft Band includes 10 sensors.

3. With Microsoft Health, Band will know how hard you work and what's stressing you out.
Microsoft Health might be the most interesting and ambitious aspect of Band. Accessible via a number of cross-platform apps, Microsoft Health crunches data that Band collects and turns it into practicable insights. Apple's Health app and Google's Fit promise similar functions as a one-stop repository for health data, but Microsoft promises a level of useful analysis that others have only hinted at.

Theoretically, the more information users share with Microsoft Health, the smarter its insights and recommendations will become. At launch, if a user wears Band

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

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kharrison212
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kharrison212,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 10:06:56 AM
Monitoring will have issues
The article described the requirement to wear the watch to build up a history, it even stated that it could track sleep patterns to show the type of rest you encounter during the night. 

How do you charge the device while sleeping?  These smart watches need to be able to run a month or more to be useful, maybe even a year.  If it is in a tracking mode maybe it shouldn't display anything until it has enough data for a useful download and have a simple second battery to display real time of day.

It isn't useful if it can't collect the data, and real time data (no history) isn't very useful
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
11/3/2014 | 4:21:31 AM
Re: GPS independence, good; battery life, weak; need for accuracy, overblown
More use cases should be supported instead of simply recording your body data for healthcare purpose. For sure it will push for adoption. Another concern is the price - how will the price look like when it's on market?
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
11/2/2014 | 11:43:45 PM
Re: Hmmmm
@malharden & jgherbert
Is it a coincidence that the coverage of MSFT devices starts with the word "issues" in the title, while the coverage of Apple devices is generally warm and flowery?

I was trying to think what other word to use instead of "issues"

Reading the nine key issues, we could certainly use "points", "topics" or "considerations" instead, don't you agree?
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/2/2014 | 10:38:31 PM
Re: GPS independence, good; battery life, weak; need for accuracy, overblown
I think Microsoft band will make a greater impact becuase of its connectivity with healthvualt.  Healthvault allows for people to access and understand their information much better. The problem I see is that there is very few people interested with PHRs in general.

 

smart watches don't have the utility factors as smartphones.  I really believe if they can be used in specific setting such as home based care or telehealth this will really push their adoption among people.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
11/2/2014 | 9:37:46 PM
Re: Microsoft band Wearables
This is a concern for tech age. At the begining we are all excited about the convenience and the fancy part of the new product. Soon at least some of us will get tired of wearing all these devices everyday and pay attention to the data gathered/analysis report generated. But let's see how it will move forward - when consumers are tired of old products, something new will definitely show up.
tekedge
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tekedge,
User Rank: Moderator
10/31/2014 | 5:38:04 PM
Microsoft band Wearables
I am skeptical about this product  as usual. I do not know whether having so many gadgets on your body is really worth it and how accurate it is going to be. And do we need to know all the readings from our body all the time. I think it will be a norm slowly but how  many people are ready to embrace it is a wait and watch game. We are going to be slaves to technology soon if we are already not....
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/31/2014 | 4:12:03 PM
Re: GPS independence, good; battery life, weak; need for accuracy, overblown
The problem I have with wearables of this sort, whether from Microsoft, Apple, or Google, is that they're niche products with mass market pretensions. Smartphones make sense -- there's a benefit to having a small Internet-connected computer in your pocket. Watches that convey notifcations, are tied to smartphones, or independently offer communication and biometric data services make sense only to a subset of the smartphone audience, and probably not a very large subset.

Wearables like this show the tech industry acting like Hollywood -- we had a hit with the smartphone, now let's make it again as a wrist-mounted device.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/31/2014 | 3:27:32 PM
Re: GPS independence, good; battery life, weak; need for accuracy, overblown
@rradina, I believe your skepticism is justified. I think those sorts of corporate wellness programs will start to become more common, but I also have reservations about them. In terms of policy precedents, I'm not sure it's a great idea to give corporations more control over employees' private lives, since I already consider the employer-employee dynamic to be pretty one-sided in favor of the former. I also think some of these wellness programs, while potentially useful and arguably well-intentioned, somewhat sidestep political and economic issues related to rising health care costs. These concerns aside, I think wearable technology has the potential to positively affect user health. Privacy concerns and skepticism are necessary-- but I'm holding out at least some optimism.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/31/2014 | 2:44:44 PM
Re: One to watch (haha, get it?)
"Microsoft still finds a way to set the barn on fire with all the horses inside." It's true, isn't it! However, I think competitors count MS out of any market at their peril. It certainly has the money to stay the course and undercut competing offerings in most areas, should it choose to. To wit, some recent poll data, below. Maybe it's fine with third, biding its time until a market leader stumbles.

 Microsoft's Future in the Smartphone Market
       
Microsoft is trying to snag smartphone market share from Android and iOS. Which statement best describes your expected outcome?
         
Microsoft will capture a significant slice of the market 9%      
Microsoft will inch up but remain a distant third 65%      
No way; it's only a matter of time until Microsoft gives up and exits the market 26%      
         
Base: 200 respondents involved with selecting, deploying, or managing operating systems for tablets and/or smartphones
Data: InformationWeek 2015 Windows Survey of 330 business technology professionals, September 2014  
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2014 | 2:14:13 PM
Re: GPS independence, good; battery life, weak; need for accuracy, overblown
Incented as in big (corporate) brother monitoring them with a smart band?
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