Microsoft Band Unveiled Months Ahead of the Apple Watch Release

Microsoft starts sales of its smartwatch today, being ahead of Apple by several months.

MOSCOW, October 30 (RIA Novosti) — Microsoft's first attempt to break into the smartwatch market will launch today, a full 6 months ahead of the Apple Watch, with the release of the cross-platform Microsoft Band at the low price of $199.

The Band does not only show the exact time, but also offers a fair amount of additional features. One of the biggest features is the ‘Microsoft Health’ app, available for use on all three of the major smartphone operating systems, Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone. The app processes data collected through the estimation of the change in electrical resistance of the skin and allows for the computer to determine heart rate, skin temperature, UV exposure and stress. In addition, ‘Microsoft Health’ also provides other fitness-related functions like step counting, distance tracking, calorie expenditure esitmation, as well as sleep monitoring.

The app can also predict possible health issues and provide advice.

“One thing health and fitness trackers do incredibly well today is tell you about your past, but you would be hard-pressed to find devices that do a decent job of giving you actionable information,” said Ramon Llamas of IDC as quoted by BusinessWeek. The Band also provides some limited access to current stock market data, e-mail previews, calendar scheduling and social media access. Band owners will also be able to pay at Starbucks via a mobile payment function using the devices near field communications system. The device connects to a phone via a Bluetooth connecting and also has a voice assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana.

Тhe Microsoft band sets itself apart from other competitors by having a long lasting battery. Reportedly, one charge lasts for 48 hours, as compared to other smartwatches which need to be recharged daily. Microsoft has also take a different approach to how they are marketing their watch, promoting it more as a fitness aid. In fact, Mircrosoft's Vice President Yusuf Mehdi showed off the Band while wearing a normal watch on the other. James McQuivey of Forrester Research notes that marketing the Band as a high-end fitness device is a good strategy against the massively anticipated Apple Watch and allows Microsoft to avoid direct competition.

The Band is initially available for US-based customers in limited quantities, a reflection of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s cautious approach to market. “It’s a first step,” said Microsoft’s Mehdi as reported by BusinessWeek. “We are focused on getting feedback, learning, and adjusting.”

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