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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Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/31/2014 | 10:48:14 AM
Less is more?
Smart move by Microsoft -- at least strategically against Apple -- to release an affordable wristband wearable with features focused on health and fitness and some messaging. It's not trying to be an uber watch that does everything for everybody. The Fitbit is taking the same tack as Microsoft with Surge. If people take to these bands that do 10 things really well, then Apple Watch will seem bloated when it hits the market. We shall see.
BoydMoon
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BoydMoon,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/31/2014 | 10:38:37 AM
Re: Hmmmm
Got the same impression ... if MS gets a win, they must be lucky.
malharden
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malharden,
User Rank: Strategist
10/31/2014 | 10:29:49 AM
Hmmmm
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?

 

And the first poster immediately brings up Apple, rather than discuss MSFT's tool?

 

It sort of implies a fixed prism that everything gets viewed through. One might even say a "bias".

 

Just sayin.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2014 | 9:55:18 AM
Re: One to watch (haha, get it?)
The idea that it will integrate with Apple's HealthKit is indeed a fascinating concept. My mind is currently somewhat boggled by the idea. I can only assume then that the wearables unit has been given permission to go try and make money any way it can. There's some sense to that though - I'm fairly unlikely to walk away from Apple's ecosystem just for a wearable band; it would have to be phenomenal for me to even consider it. But if I can buy their hardware and use it with the iPhone, maybe there's a win there, even if there's no Ford Cortana.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/31/2014 | 9:40:17 AM
Re: One to watch (haha, get it?)
There is an iOS app to go with Band! And an Android one too. You need Windows Phone for Cortana functions, but compared to a lot of others, Microsoft isn't trying to use its wearable to corner you into its ecosystem.

In fact, at least one report says Band will integrate with Apple's HealthKit, which is really interesting, given that Microsoft Health plays in the same space.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2014 | 9:34:46 AM
One to watch (haha, get it?)
This does look like a nice product. A colleague came back from lunch yesterday carrying a Microsoft Store bag with a shiny new wearable band in it. As he put it, "Well that's my productivity for this afternoon blown."

I'm a little intrigued by the idea of licensing out the hardware components; Microsoft again seems to fear being the one making both the hardware and the software for a product, and is immediately falling back on licensing as a way to spread the love (and risk), even though chances are somebody else can do a better job putting a product together for less money.


Still, the value in all this data - as with all data - is what you do with it. If the MS "insights" are good, that could be a deal-sealer for many people. Now, is there an iOS App to go with it?   ;-)
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/31/2014 | 9:32:42 AM
Is Band a hit?
Microsoft Band sold out online almost immediately, and there are reports of long line at Microsoft retail stores, which are usually pretty lonely places.

It's too early to say if Band has really inspired demand. After all, Surface models have sold out on the first day too, and in most of those cases, that had more to do with limited inventory than high demand. Still, Band seems to have more positive first-week buzz than any first-party device Microsoft in a while.

Any readers interested in buying one?

If so, were you already interested in wearables? Or is Band the device that finally won you over?

Anyone who'd been waiting on Apple Watch tempted to get Band instead?

 

 
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