Never before has Microsoft’s mobile-first, cloud-first mantra been as apparent as it is now.
First off, we have the Microsoft Band. As its telling name suggests, this isn’t being positioned as a “traditional” smartwatch, but more of a smart band in the vein of FitBit’s popular products. As such, the fitness features you would expect are there and have been ramped up to the next level. It tracks your workouts and tells you what’s next, how far you’ve run, your heart rate, etc.
Taking things to the next level, Band also has a color touchscreen, displays text, calls, and email notifications. It allows you to pay for Starbucks every morning and check your calendar, weather, stocks, Facebook and Twitter updates. For Windows Phone users, Cortana allows quick interactions and reminder settings. Oh, and it shows you the time.
The impressive technical part is the amount of sensors this thing has. You get a GPS that functions independently of your smartphone for runs. There’s a UV sensor that tells you whether you should be wearing sunscreen. Skin temperature and optical heart rate sensors are far more accurate than what the competition has.
The last two bombshells? It syncs with Windows Phone, iOS, and Android handsets. Oh, and it’s also just $199.
For a first effort in a new product category, the Band is undoubtedly impressive. It’s a second announcement, however, that lays bare the ambition of Microsoft’s plans.
Microsoft Health is a fully open, cloud-based aggregator of your health data. It already integrates statistics from the aforementioned mobile platforms, but also third party devices/services like JawBone, MapMyFitness, My FitnessPal, and Runkeeper. An interesting feature is its Intelligence Engine which provides insights. These insights are based on your daily exertions and fitness goals, dynamically recommending activities and workouts that help you be fit.
Microsoft has a leg up here with Azure. Apple has had its recent privacy scares (although, to be fair, they are more failings of PR than any actual security fault) and Google is just… not as trustworthy. With the positive impressions of many of Microsoft’s cloud products gaining steam, it’s clear to see how Health can become a leading aggregator of the planet’s health data.
Being productivity focused, Microsoft is hoping to integrate data from your calendar and activities, telling you whether you should do calming exercises after meetings due to an elevated heart rate, as a relevant example.
It’s an ambitious first step. Time should tell whether we embrace Microsoft’s vision to “Live Healthier and Be More Productive.”