I don’t mean this in a disparaging way. I just mean that’s what it is for me.
I’ve had Garmin and Polar devices over the years. For the sports and activities I like to do they are more suited to the task. However, for a more casual “athlete” that is looking for a way to track Steps, Sleep and Starbucks runs the Microsoft Band is a good enough device.
Below are my likes, limitations and predictions for The Microsoft Band. This is Part Deux of my Naked Wrist Experiment.
- Ease of Use – The UI is simple and easy to understand. Just two buttons and the ability to swipe to see the apps.
- Starbucks is Onboard – There is an app to load a Starbucks card. You can use the barcode stored on the Microsoft Band to allow the barcode reader at your local Starbucks to debit your account while earning credits for your next beverage.
- Apps (sort of) – Kind of comically there are already people building apps (or I should say applets) for the Microsoft band. In the long run there might be more people and companies building apps for the Microsoft Band than ever built apps for the Windows Phone market.
- OOTB Experience – While I was a bit critical in my previous post about the Microsoft Band I do give Microsoft credit for working very hard to make the experience seamless. For the most part it is pretty smooth. Minus the ability to wear the device out the door … like you would a new pair of shoes that you want to show off.
- Setup - The setup on my Windows Phone was simple. The instructions were easy to understand the the Microsoft Band quickly connected to my phone. Wisely Microsoft has made it easy to connect to Apple and Android phones too.
These will likely be features and capabilities in follow-on versions of the device. Of course, the on-going Stealth Mode Launch will determine if there will be any follow on versions. I hope and expect there will be. The market for Wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) makes it an almost certainty.
- Not Waterproof – Some people, myself included, would like to leave the device on all the time. I understand the limitations this might imply. However, I also participate in water sports. I’d like to track my efforts on and in the water too. Again. I’m probably not the target audience for the Microsoft Band. I knew what I was signing up for when I picked up the device. I wanted to see how I could adapt.
- Heart Rate Accuracy – I may be outside the scope of the target audience for the Microsoft Band. However, I noticed more than a few times that the device lagged my heart rate by a minute or more. For most people this doesn’t matter, but for training purposes it’s not very helpful.
- Bulky – Even for my relatively large “Clydesdale-esque” wrist the Microsoft Band is quite large. I got used to it, but others might not.
- Also, I often had to switch the band from the inside of my wrist to be on the outside (like most watch wearers). The reason for this is because when I type on my keyboard the face of the Microsoft Band comes into contact with the desk or the keyboard.
- Note: The Microsoft Band ships with a “Screen Protector” --- which was sort of easy to install.
- Power - The joys of having a non-standard cable … when you are out and about (traveling or whatever) and the device tells you it's low of battery (which is kinda cool) … you are still stuck. There is no easy fix here, but an option for a micro-USB slot could help.
- Note: Stealth Mode Launch compounds the issue by the relative lack of popularity / availability of the devices
The Wearable Computing Market and the Wearable Health Devices market will continue to grow. I suspect Microsoft is watching (pun sort of intended) this market very closely and monitoring their “Stealth Mode” launch efforts as well as the feedback from customers.
I predict at least two v.next versions can be created as logical line extensions of the Microsoft Band. I’m sure there are several more variations that I have not considered here. The possibilities are endless. With the aging population of Baby Boomers and the increased activities of Millennials and Gen Z this market has a long way to go.
Sports Edition – which should include at least a few of the things listed below:
- Waterproof – not much needs to be said here. This is a requirement if they get serious about sports.
- Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap – In order to provide accurate and real-time heart rate monitoring. Perhaps they can also add additional capabilities in a chest strap. I’m happy to wear a chest strap, especially if it provides more accurate heart rate information.
- Bike Riding Apps – I’m not a runner. I am a bike rider. It would be nice to see apps come out for biking.
- Skiing / Snowboarding Apps – The device has a ton of sensors, including GPS. It may be sensitive enough to calculate altitude and provide an Altimeter function.
I can envision some follow on devices that Microsoft can develop themselves or work with some of the established vendors that make these devices today. Microsoft can drive the Internet of Things (IoT) efforts for these manufacturers and make a nice foray into the burgeoning healthcare market.
- Blood Pressure – Create a cuff that works in conjunction with The Microsoft Band.
- Blood Sugar Testing (and tracking) – Work with multiple vendors to monitor, alert and manage blood sugar levels.
- DocTalk (tm) – Enable a doctor or other medical provider to monitor (with the owners permission, of course) some of the key vital signs. Perhaps sending a buzz to the wearer to remind them to take some medication or just move around if they have been too sedentary.
- Note: Cortana is built-in. When used with a Lumia device the ability to talk to the Microsoft Band becomes another option and way to interact. Both with the device, your Lumia and with others that might be far away. Think Life Alert!
In both of these scenarios Microsoft has an opportunity to drive sales and use of their new phone divisions products. Now that Microsoft owns the Lumia brand they can start to drive device sales … not necessarily as phones, but as mobile devices to help athletes, patients and the people that care for them.
BAM! and Cha-Ching!!
This is a way to drive Windows 10 sales
and if they are smart (and they are!) the Microsoft folks will continue empower Android and iOS devices … as well as the operating systems traditional medical devices in use today.
Overall I think the Microsoft Band has a future. It’s clear Microsoft is using this product as a lead-in to the Microsoft Health app.
I’m going to continue evaluating the Microsoft Band. As mentioned I’m not the target audience for these devices, but I do think there is a significant opportunity for Microsoft to create a nice market entry point for Wearable Computing devices. For the more casual observer that wants to know how many steps they have taken and perhaps a few other more casual metrics of their activities the Microsoft Band is great.
Image Credit: Microsoft Corporation
Jeff is an expert in the Enterprise Content Management industry. He brings over 20 years of Channel Sales, Partner Marketing and Alliance expertise to audiences around the world in speaking engagements and via his writing. He has worked for Microsoft, Kodak, and is currently the Chief Evangelist at K2. Tweet him @jshuey or connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+ He is active in the Microsoft Partner Community and is the co-founder and President of the IAMCP Seattle chapter.