ICYMI: March 17, 2016

ICYMI: March 17, 2016

Happy Thursday! If you're in the United States, tell us how you like your corned beef on today or share the strangest place you've seen a shamrock.


The biggest story of yesterday and why you should care today: Fitness wearables and their attendant user-generated data are a big business. So is the obstacle-race industry; races like Tough Mudder and other extreme events generated $250 million in annual revenue back in 2012, and $362 million by 2014. However, both businesses face a burnout challenge: the rate of growth for the obstacle races has slowed in the past two years, and much has been made of wearables users' tendency to ditch their devices after a few months.

But the flip side to "burnout" is "small but engaged audience." Tough Mudder estimates that 40% of its business comes from return customers. Microsoft's now got access to that audience via a new partnership with the racing organizing. As Microsoft explains:

Whether you have a Microsoft Band or use the free Microsoft Health app on your Lumia, Android or iOS phone, you can download the Tough Mudder Guided Workout to help you achieve your fitness goals and bolt across the river, through the woods and over the wall.

This partnership could serve as a model for how Microsoft approaches partnering with other companies. But Microsoft is facing some steep competition in the fitness band/corporate partnership space. The Fitbit has HIPAA-compliant certification, making it the wearable of choice for workplace wellness programs at Geico, Quicken Loans and Target.

And UnderArmour has been amassing a number of fitness-related social networks and big data sites in its effort to create a complete top-to-bottom chain for capturing both customer dollars and data. It's begun using its deep tech bench to do things like offer sports retailers a customer loyalty program: when Fitbit, Garmin or Jawbone users complete specific athletic challenges, they earn Sports Authority loyalty points. As Mediapost reports of the set-up: "this program neatly links together the value chain of consumer, wearable device, reward and brand."

It will be interesting to see whether or how Microsoft and its band continue to try and tap into the fitness/wearable/big-data market.

Also worth noting: Apple is also making a play for the consumer health space, although they're eying a more medical-field market. As CNet reports:

AliveCor already makes an FDA-approved ECG accessory for your phone, and the company is now bringing its technology to the Apple Watch.

The technology can log all sorts of cardiac activity, and there's an accompanying app which runs algorithms to see if the cardiac activity might indicate strokes or other cardiac events. There's a healthcare provider dashboard, which means that someone wearing a watch could experience some cardiac irregularity and their care provider gets an alert that provides actionable data later.


The most useful tech news and how-tos:

Change Excel's decimal separators from periods to commas -- handy for those of us who work outside the U.S.

Extend the amount of time you can view pop-up notifications in Windows 10.

Customize the app launcher that lurks in the upper right corner of any Google service you access via Web browser.

If you're using the Chrome browser, let technology smooth over your grammar gaffes courtesy of these extensions.

Suffering a little sticker shock over the price of Office 2016? Consider these four alternatives.

And as of next summer, you'll be doing your Excel spreadsheets on your Xbox.


The most amusing tech news:  If you'd been plagued by FOMO (an explanation for the acronym-averse) because you're not at South by Southwest (SXSW), rest assured. Apparently you're not missing much this year. Despite the kickoff speech by President Barack Obama, this year's festival has been a dud. Why? "For the most exciting topics in tech, the future seems to be running behind schedule."


What we published yesterday: 

How to Optimize Your Android Phone's Storage — By employing some digital fat-trimming smarts, you’ll be able to save room for that next tower-defense game, or to take a few more videos of your kids wrestling with the cat. Stop the digital hoarding and reign things in with these tips.

How-To: Create a Windows System Image for Windows 10 Devices — By creating this system image on a routine and regular basis you could have your system restored and back up and running in a very short period of time compared to a clean install of the OS and other software.

How-To: Use File History Backup in Windows 10 — The process of creating a backup of important data needs to be easy to implement. The tools also need to have the capability to take care of itself for the most part and leave you to just test your backups every once in a while.

Microsoft Health App Updated, Fixes Activity Sharing and Other Bugs — Folks testing Windows 10 Mobile as part of the Insider’s club have had non-stop issues with the Microsoft Band and their Windows 10 Mobile devices



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