Microsoft Sweats Over First Fitness Band

After various leaks, Microsoft finally launched their wearable tech band. As Redmond’s first entry into the wearable wristband market, Microsoft has a lot to prove, but not a lot to lose. They just need to show their worth.

First thing we need to tell you… This ISN’T a smart watch. It’s not a watch replacement. In essence, it is an activity tracker that’s equipped with bluetooth, optical heart rate sensors, 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, skin temperature sensors, galvanic skin sensors and UV ambient light sensors. This feature list means that the wrist band, dubbed Microsoft Band, has the ability to track your movement while running, measure heart rate and give in-depth details of your run – all by itself. But, intriguingly also measure the light around you and how much you perspired during your run.

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Microsoft built in a rectangular display instead of the traditional square. A 1.4 inch display will deliver any alerts/notifications at a resolution of 320X106. A built in vibration motor means that you’ll also get haptic feedback when you need to be alerted too.

The fact is, that this isn’t a watch. Therefore there is less need for the device to last all day. However, it dying during your workout isn’t exactly ideal. Hence, Microsoft built in a 48 hour twin, 100mAh battery. Similar to the Apple Watch, the Microsoft Band charges via a magnetically attached USB charger. The functionality of Microsoft Band will be limited at first, with the ability to only take calls and forge texts linked to mobiles. And the apps available will be less than extensive, currently Microsoft is touting Starbucks as a partner for the Band. Allowing users to pay for goods by scanning barcodes on Microsoft Band.

Any Windows Phone device with 8.1 and Bluetooth LE will work with Microsoft Band. Those of us not in the Microsoft ecosystem will either need iOS 7.1 and above or Android 4.3.

On top of the Microsoft Band, Redmond also launched a whole suite of software services labelled as Microsoft Health. These apps/services will be also available on iOS and Android. They will track the usual activity/sporty things you’d expect – but will also offer powerful “insights” into improving your workouts. Analysing optimum calories you could burn and also how much recovery time you should take. All of this will link into Microsoft’s cloud services and Office too. Hence tracking correlations between work, meetings and your sleep patterns.

These apps are designed to work with other third party devices such as Jawbone UP and third party apps like RunKeeper.

It’s clear that Microsoft wants a slice of the wearable cake, it might be trying to steal some of Apple’s limelight. But this isn’t a watch and Microsoft hasn’t marketed it as one. It might be a platform for Microsoft to build on, introducing further wearable products and hence a good opener for Redmond. It’s extended services and linked colour services makes the Microsoft Band an interesting product for those fitness centred. The only thing yet to be seen, is if it will appeal to those who have no interest in fitness. Will you be breaking a sweat to grab a Microsoft Band?

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