Coverage for the Microsoft Band, Microsoft's latest entry into the wearable market, has been as thick as a good spaghetti sauce. The Band is not Microsoft's first attempt at a wearable device (who remembers the SPOT watch – circa 2004?), but it could end up as it's most popular. Just try to locate one in stock online or in a store and it was just released on October 29.
Clearly, the intent of the smartwatch is fitness. The apps and services built into the wristband device are heavy on exercise, sleep, and weight loss. But, it's not the Band itself that Microsoft truly cares about. Interestingly enough, Microsoft is licensing the sensors built into the device in attempt to build and nurture partnerships to tie into its health services.
I'll be posting up a review on the device soon, but taking a different tact than most. I'll not be covering the features, apps, bulk, and style, but giving it a good test for real world fitness, focusing on serious running and some weight training. For those that decide not to get the Band, there's other options available. I recently posted an article on the Best Strength Training Apps for Windows and Windows Phone and will post up a follow up soon on the best running apps for Windows and Windows Phone.
For an overview and walk through for some of its features, check out my colleague's (Paul Thurrott) coverage on the Microsoft Band: Microsoft Band on the Supersite for Windows
So, it's obvious that the Microsoft Band is intended as a fitness tracking tool, but is there more to it? Can the smartwatch be made to function beyond a mere fitness device, and more importantly, is there business justification? If you're going to integrate a smartwatch like this into your life, what value can it provide as a daily driver?
At first glance, there is value, but I don't think there's enough to justify labeling the Band a full business prospect. Here's a couple areas where the Microsoft Band could be useful to business users…
Pairing the Microsoft Band over Bluetooth with an iPhone, Android smartphone, or a Windows Phone, allows the normal smartphone notifications to deliver to the Band's screen. In meetings it's much less obtrusive to glance at your wrist than pull your smartphone out of your pocket. You can excuse yourself for a few minutes when that critical email delivers that requires an immediate response.
In addition to posting notifications, you can also interact with them in some cases. You can dismiss them until later, or deliver quick responses, particularly to received texts and IMs. You can also setup automated responses, similar to what you find on a regular smartphone. So, for example, if you are busy in a meeting and receive a notification from your wife, you can quickly tap and send the response: "In a meeting. Call soon."
One of the more unique features of the Microsoft Band is the ability to use voice commands. Cortana, Microsoft's extremely popular personal assistant, is built into the Band, allowing you to do things like set reminders, save quick notes, and access turn-by-turn directions. Of course, this feature only works with a Windows Phone, so Android and iOS users will have to miss out. Tell Cortana to "Set alarm for 4 O'clock" or "Remind me to call Joe at 6pm tomorrow." As simple as that. This also requires pairing with a smartphone (Windows Phone), but ensures the request is in sync and you don't miss that important reminder if you somehow become separated from your Microsoft Band.
News and Stock Alerts
Using the Microsoft Band app you can configure just about any app that offers notifications to deliver them to the smartwatch. If tracking stocks or monitoring news is part of your job, this could provide some serious value. Imagine, as a stock broker, being on the call with a client and having a critical stock announcement flash on your wrist. It could change the conversation rather quickly.
I may be missing a couple things, but in my mind that pretty much sums up any type of business value the Microsoft Band may have. Unless, of course, you consider starting the day with a Starbucks coffee (the Band has a Starbucks app built-in) the most critical function to your work day. There may be others, your wife, your co-workers, or your boss, that also avoid interacting with you until you've had your first cup. If you find other business uses for the Microsoft Band, let me know.