Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:57

Microsoft Band (not banned) - its health fitness wearable!

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When things are banned they usually increase in desirability, but Microsoft’s new fitness health band wearable is unlikely to be banned anytime soon - with its screen on the opposite side you’d expect!

Fitness wearables are going ballistic, what with the upcoming Apple Watch, the new range from Fitbit, all the Fitbit wannabes and clones, Samsung’s Gear Fit, Lenovo’s new wearable and all the rest.

The big question for some was when Microsoft was going to jump into the fray, especially after the company’s failed Spot Watch from a decade or more ago.

Now comes the Microsoft Band, a fitness wearable with its screen on the “bottom” of your wrist, so instead of looking at the top of your wrist where a watch face would normally be, you’re looking at the inside of your wrist, which is actually pretty cool.

I’ve seen people wear their watches like that, so it’s not a new concept, as such, but it is from the point of view that Microsoft is specifically designing a device to work in that manner.

Microsoft says its Band “provides a balance of fitness and productivity benefits including guided workouts from fitness professionals, continuous heart rate monitoring, calorie burn measurement, sleep quality tracking and delivery of notifications including calls, emails, texts and social updates as well as access to Cortana.”

The Band is available nationwide in the U.S. via Microsoft Stores and online at MicrosoftStore.com for US $199.

Microsoft Australia’s statement on local availability is as follows:

“We are taking our first steps to empower people to achieve more with their health with the announcement of Microsoft Health, a platform that makes tracking personal fitness easier, more insightful and more holistic, and the first device to be powered by Microsoft Health, the Microsoft Band, a cross-platform smart band for fitness enthusiasts who want to live healthier and be more productive combining advanced fitness tracking capabilities with the useful features of a smartwatch.”

“This is just the beginning of a multi-year vision for Microsoft in the health & fitness and wearables category. We want to enter this space in a deliberate and measured fashion and as such are launching first in the United States. The Microsoft Health app is available on Windows Phone, Android and iOS devices and the Microsoft Band is available starting Oct 30 in the U.S. at Microsoft Stores and online at www.microsoftstores.com for US$199.”

Microsoft’s blog to introduce its entire Microsoft Health concept is here, while the official and very snazzy-looking Microsoft Band site is here. The official video introducing the band is embedded below.

Microsoft’s full media release explaining a lot more background is here, and if you’re interested, it is a must read!

Apparently years in the making, as with the Microsoft Health concept, it is a “new security-enhanced cloud platform that stores and analyzes all of this data”, and of course Microsoft tells us that is has “transformed the engineers’ personal health and fitness” - the engineers who created the band.

Naturally there is a continuous heart rate monitoring feature, which you’d expect these days (and as Fitbit has just itself announced and will deliver from early 2015 in its Fitbit HR and Fitbit Surge devices.)

While the Band can be used with iOS and Android devices as well as with Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones, you only get access to Cortana, which is Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant reminiscent of Apple’s Siri.

It’s not just for fitness data but you can see messages, appointments and other related data - as you’d expect from a modern smartwatch/smart band.

Just a couple of the many, many quotes in the background link above include:

Zulfi Alam, GM of Microsoft’s Personal Devices division explained how the fitness component of the band can work, stating: “Imagine you’ve set the goal that you want to get fit and lose weight as part of your exercise routine. Based on your burn rate and exercise over one week, we will soon be able to auto-suggest a customized workout plan for you. As you follow that plan – or if you don’t follow the plan – our technology will continue to adjust to give you the best outward-looking plan, like a real coach would do.”

Matt Barlow, GM of Marketing for Personal Devices, said: “We always insisted that the band had to work not just with Windows but with iOS and Android. As we built Microsoft Health, we started thinking, ‘Why should Microsoft Band be the only device that feeds into and benefits from this service?’ We want it connect to any device customers are using to track their health and fitness. We want to remove any and all barriers to providing insights back to customers, regardless of the device they are wearing.”

Check out the links above for a lot more detail, with the must-read media backgrounder here.

The official video is embedded below:

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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