It all happened very fast. The rumors may have circulated for almost a year or more, but the actual hardware came faster than anyone thought it would. Like most events of note I watched it go down in a series of messages on Twitter. First it was Brad Sams on Neowin and Tom Warren from the Verge both talking about a site for a Microsoft Band going live along with the Microsoft Health app showing up across the App stores for Windows Phone, Google Play, and the App Store. Next came the profile on the Verge that revealed Microsoft’s entry into the smart wearables category; the Microsoft Band.
The Band is a simple device when compared to smart watches running Android Wear or the soon to launch Apple watch. It is a thick, black strap packed full of sensors for monitoring your steps, heart rate, and even your sleep patterns. It has a thin rectangular screen that shows the time and allows access to GPS, messages, Twitter, Facebook, and Starbucks (cause you know you want that Latte). The Band tracks your health and your steps and enters a crowded market with companies like FitBit and Jawbone. Unlike many wearables, the Band is cross platform out of the box.It works with not only Windows but iOS and Android. The device runs $199 before tax and as of now is being sold only in the US. In its first hours of life it sold out at both the online and physical Microsoft Stores.
To me the most interesting thing around the Band in its first iteration isn’t the hardware or even the software; most of that will evolve, get slimmer et cetera. What’s interesting is how much the Band and more importantly Microsoft Health is a Platform and Data play. The Band as a device is about digesting health information. Microsoft Health is about taking that information and crunching it to better understand it. In fact I’m surprised no one has talked up the fact Microsoft is talking about licensing the sensor technology and design to other companies. The Band looks to represent moves around Big data instead of high fashion.
This focus and the device itself will probably disappoint those looking for something like the Moto 360; a smartphone that you put on your wrist. But the Band I think will be an interesting chapter in the future of Microsoft’s Devices and Services.