Microsoft’s Time(piece) Has Come

Category: Gadgets

“How do you like them apples, Apple?” The folks in Redmond have beaten Cupertino to the market with a smartwatch, just in time for the holiday shopping season. Read on to learn all about the Microsoft Band -- a watch, fitness monitor and wrist-wearable computer...

One Ring to Band Them...

Microsoft Band is now on sale for $199, a dramatic bargain compared to the $350 base price tag expected on the Apple Watch (which requires an iPhone 5 or iPhone 6). And this time, Microsoft is playing nice with the other kids. Apple aficionados can wear the Band, too, and so can Google groupies.

The Band is available in three versions compatible with Apple iOS, Android, or Windows Phone devices. If it wasn’t, the Band would be limited to the 4.3% of smartphone sales that Microsoft garnered in the third quarter of 2014, and that would be dumb. The Band’s appeal may be limited in other ways, though.

The first drawback is foreshadowed in the Band’s name. This thing looks like a convict’s electronic ankle monitor slimmed down for the wrist. Of course, so does the FitBit, Nike FuelBand and other wrist-wearables, but at least most come in colors other than black.

Microsoft Band / Watch / Fitness Monitor

The second turn-off, for many obese and sedentary Americans, will be the Band’s many health and fitness monitoring functions. It counts your heartbeats, the calories you burn (but not those you eat), the number of steps you take, the hours you sleep deeply or lightly, and the number of times you wake up. Yes, that implies that you’re expected to wear the Band constantly, even to bed.

Oh, and it monitors UV intensity to help guard against skin cancer of the wrist. That'll be huge for guys who drive with one arm hanging out the window.

The Band can even track where you go through its built-in GPS, although I can’t find any indication that it does so. Still, that may give some people pause. But let's get real... My phone has GPS, and so does my car. There's E-Z Pass on the dashboard, satellite-powered eyes in the sky, and surveillance cameras pretty much everywhere. So if anyone wants to know where I am or where I've been, they can just ask the nice folks at Google, Verizon, Toyota, the Thruway Authority, or the NSA.

All Your Health Are Belong To Us

What may cause users to run away is the fact that the Band sends all the data it collects about you to Microsoft Health, a cloud-based service that shares its name with the data collection app on the Band. Third-party apps can connect to Microsoft Health, presumably to do you good. Apps that can already access Microsoft Health data include Gold’s Gym, Under Armour’s MapMyFitness, and MyFitnessPal.

But don't worry, nobody will EVER hack into Microsoft Health, and the nice folks in Redmond would NEVER use that treasure trove of data for marketing purposes. We’ll see how that goes. Perhaps they should offer optional tin-foil hats along with Band, so wearers can retain at least their inmost thoughts.

The Band’s screen is relatively long and narrow, and the display’s fonts are in the style of Windows Phone 8.1. A lot of horizontal swiping is involved in switching functions. The Band can relay short messages from the phone to which it is linked wirelessly, such as texts, Tweets, calendar events, and reminders, as well as driving directions, traffic alerts, stock prices and sports scores. Oh, and it even displays the time and date.

Surprisingly, the Band does not support replying to messages or answering voice calls. But you can at least look like Dick Tracy, raising the Band to your lips to record a voice memo to yourself, or ask the Band to create a reminder for you.

The Band can go two days without recharging, according to Microsoft. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has warned everyone that “you’ll end up charging (the Apple Watch) every day.” This downtime seems like an infinite leap backwards in chronometer technology; it only took a few moments to refill a water clock, back in the day.

Coffee, Anyone?

Apple has Apple Pay for all your mobile payment needs, if you can find a merchant who accepts it. Microsoft Band can link to the Starbucks app, allowing you to pay for lattes with an insouciant flick of the wrist.

In a stunning coincidence that has no rational causal connection to the above, Microsoft’s stock declined 1.5% on Thursday, October 30, the day after the company announced the Band’s availability. Will you be joining the Band band, or biding your time while Watching the horizon for new developments?

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Microsoft’s Time(piece) Has Come"

Posted by:

31 Oct 2014

I still think Pebble is the watch to beat.
Both Apple and MS are starting off already behind the curve.
Although smartwatches are still somewhat gimmicky, I've fallen in love with my Pebble and find it to be a great companion to my smartphone.

Posted by:

31 Oct 2014

I was "with the program" until the connection to something beyond my body. I do not want my "results" shared with anyone unless I do the sharing. Thanks for reporting this.

Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
31 Oct 2014

Neither the "Apple Watch" nor the "Microsoft Band" pose any threat to my 6-year-old, $25 Casio wristwatch. It doesn't need to be recharged, "just works", and performs the functions that I need.

I'm not a fitness geek, nor a hypochondriac, so I don't need continuous health monitoring. (When they come up with one to track blood glucose levels and blood pressure, I might be interested. But neither Watch nor Band does.)

Posted by:

31 Oct 2014

Just the fact of having one of these fitness bands keeps one cognizant of their steps/health. So having one of these will over the long run make most people healthier.
I have a Polar Loop band and have used it for about a year. I have lost 33 lbs. walking 10k steps per day.
The loop does most of what the MS band does except for talking to it. At around $100.00 I can write my own notes and I have to recharge it every 5 days not every other day.

Posted by:

31 Oct 2014

I still find the idea that my watch has to link to a smartphone to be useful. I do not need such a device until is is standalone.

Posted by:

31 Oct 2014

I stopped wearing watches over 40 years ago, as the bands annoyed me getting caught on things regularly. Since the iPad Mini in my pocket, tells the time (and more), I can't justify wearing something (even larger) that these companies assume we must have, because it blesses us with a wealth of information.

As a senior citizen who failed to inherit the medical fixation gene, I simply can't get excited about something like this... though I'm sure others in my age group will line up to get one of each. I haven't been sick in years, have no aches or pains and take no OTC medications, supplements or prescriptions. I eat and drink everything... in moderation. I'm active and not overweight. (I recently had my scale checked, as it's said the same thing since the last century.) I've got more energy than friends who are 20 years younger and my medical history is little more than a few sentences long - and I'm supposed to care about products like this why?

Posted by:

31 Oct 2014

I'm amazed Apple are taking so long over their smart watch.

Not only is it still not arriving until next year but they'll have missed out on all the Christmas rush.

Posted by:

01 Nov 2014

You had me laughing out loud reading your comments.
I am UP in age as well and your sentiments reflect my very own!


Posted by:

Mike Murray
01 Nov 2014

Who needs all the health stuff on a watch? Not me. I'll stick to my $12.00 Wal-Mart watch, and
the Lenovo and Asus computers I have, and save the money for more important things.

And, as far as health goes, I have a Doctors appointment in four weeks.

Having a watch remind you of your health needs, is not as important as doing what it takes, to
get your health in good shape.

Posted by:

01 Nov 2014

Just to say I love your sense of humour Bob.

Posted by:

01 Nov 2014

In answer to InLionSk8r, I applaud your health regime and the apparent results therefrom but you are not supposed to care, it's optional and costs money. However, it did give you the opportunity to boast about your good health so that's a plus. How senior are you? I'm 80 about up to your fitness standard.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2014

Don't think I'll be getting one - I don't look good in tinfoil hats.

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