New reports indicate that Microsoft is preparing to launch a fitness band or smart watch of its own to compete with devices running Android Wear and Apple’s Apple Watch. We don’t know much about the features that’ll be available but one thing seems certain, Microsoft knows that it is behind in the wearable space and is preparing software that makes its Apple Watch rival compatible with the iPhone, devices running Android and its own Windows Phone operating system.
A new report focusing on the Microsoft smartwatch at The Verge yesterday indicates that Microsoft is preparing to share information about the device within weeks. That post builds on top of a report from Forbes discussing the Microsoft smartwatch too.
As for features outside of cross-platform compatibility that much seems to be in the air. The Verge’s report refers to the device as a “fitness band with smartwatch features.” As such it’ll be able to do all the standard things that the first-generation of wearables like Nike+ and FitBit do today. Tracking steps, monitoring heart rate and giving users a look at how many calories they’ve burned seems are all said to be features included in the Microsoft smartwatch. By focusing on fitness, Microsoft could be hoping to build on features users actually care about today and then expand the smartwatch over time to include other key features.
Cross-platform compatibility is a key feature because no one else has it. Apple unveiled the Apple Watch this past September. It’ll come in multiple versions so that users can get one that best fits their arm. The wrist bands will be interchangeable and it’ll run a customized version iOS that will allow it to talk to the company’s line of iPhones. The Apple Watch won’t be compatible with phones running Microsoft or Google’s software. Similarly, the Android Wear operating system that runs on devices like the Moto 360 aren’t best with the iPhone and aren’t compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system at all.
By adding this layer of compatibility and not tying its smartwatch its smartphone platform like the Apple Watch is, Microsoft is hoping that it can cast a wider net and harness sales from just about anyone. Like the Apple Watch, these reports indicate that Microsoft’s device has removable wrist bands and tons of sensors that monitor user’s health.
The key bit of information we’re still missing here is how the Microsoft smartwatch fits in with Microsoft’s family of products. That much remains unclear. By introducing apps for each smartphone platform, Microsoft is once again giving users little reason to pick up a Windows Phone over its rivals. We don’t yet know if this device will run Microsoft’s Windows operating system or something entirely different. When Microsoft first announced Windows 10 it indicated that the operating system would work across devices. Today, there isn’t a single device running Windows 10, it’s not due out until next year sometime.
If Microsoft does have an upcoming wearable tablet it hasn’t exactly started putting its plans in motion just yet. Typically, when the company is planning to launch a new device it sends out invitations to the press. As no invitations have turned up we can conclude that the company doesn’t have plans to share information about an Apple Watch rival in the next few weeks. Of course, it’s always possible that Microsoft could just announce the device on its website without a typical event.
Whatever Microsoft decides, the company should move quickly if it hopes to get in relatively early on wearables. Samsung has been in the space for some time along with Sony. Android Wear smartwatches may have just arrived, but some of them are picking up a loyal following, like the Moto 360 for example. Failure to launch now could mean Microsoft is stuck with a generation one device at time when everyone has already perfected their own devices. The Surface 2 and Zune media players both suffered from this problem.