Everyone's doing it, it seems. Samsung jumped in first. Google formalized it on Android just this past week. And Apple is widely expected to jump into the market someday and retroactively be credited with starting the whole movement. But when it comes to the next crucial digital device market—for wearables—where does Microsoft fit in?
Actually, fit is a good word.
You may have heard that a Microsoft smart watch is coming, and that Microsoft will be rejuvenating its decade-old SPOT watch platform, at least spiritually.
My sources tell me instead that Microsoft will this fall release a Samsung Gear Fit-like fitness band that will display smart phone-based notifications, just like the current and rumored watches and other wearables. So that's the first bit of rumor busting: It's a wristband, not a watch. (Yes, I'm sure you'll be able to see the time on its screen. But the form factor is a wristband.
From a differentiation standpoint, Microsoft's wearable will do something that no other wearable platform does. It will work with everything and not just the device maker's smart phone platform. Where Samsung wearables only work with Samsung phones, Android Wear devices only work with modern Android devices, and Apple's rumored iWatch will obviously only work with iPhone, Microsoft will take a different approach. It will work with Android, iPhone and Windows Phone.
The focus, however, is the same as with Samsung Gear and similar fitness bands: Using multiple sensors, it will track your fitness—steps, calories burned, heart rate, and the like—throughout the day and interoperate with apps on mobile phones. Microsoft makes some great apps, already—hint, hint—including Bing Health & Fitness and Healthvault. It will work with third party apps too, of course.
Pricing? Same as Samsung Gear.
Availability? Announced and sold in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Branding? No idea. Presumably Nokia/Lumia or Surface, but I've not heard.
Anyway, that's what I've heard.