Did Microsoft kill its Band wearable too soon?
The Microsoft Band came and went in the blink of an eye. But was Microsoft ever onto a winner, or was it always doomed to fail?
It's 2019. Wearables, while still not everywhere, have proven somewhat popular. Apple has one (opens in new tab), Samsung has one (opens in new tab), Fitbit has loads (opens in new tab), and many smaller companies have their own as well. It's a market that has found its niche and is proving to be a success for at least some of the companies building these devices. One such company that ventured into this market early on was Microsoft, with the surprise Microsoft Band released in 2014 and Microsoft Band 2 released in 2015.
It was a short stint, but it was a unique look into a world where Microsoft was part of the wearables market, and with a product that was really quite good for the time. In 2015, the wearables market was still new, and nobody had found their feet yet. Apple had not long launched its first-generation Apple Watch, to mixed reviews. Android Wear devices were not very good at the time either. Fitbit devices were exciting but were almost 100 percent fitness-oriented at the time.
That is why Microsoft's Band 2 was an exciting product. While by all accounts it was also a fitness wearable, it did an excellent job of merging both smartwatch and fitness tracker. Unlike Fitbit, which even today is still mostly a fitness tracker with a few smartwatch features tacked on, the Microsoft Band found a happy balance between smartwatch and fitness wearable, meaning people in both product categories would be satisfied with a Microsoft Band 2.
The original Apple Watch wasn't amazing. Things improved with Series 2, but I'd argue it wasn't until Series 3 when the Apple Watch became the staple wearable in the industry. Before then, there wasn't an outright winner. Fitbit was, and is, a close second, but what if Microsoft was still in the game. Would it be number two, or number three? Could it have ever been number one in the wearables market?
The Microsoft Band 2 wasn't without issues. To many, it was too expensive. Retailing at $249, it was indeed a premium device, and for that price, the durability of the wearable was not up to scratch. Many people's Bands fell apart, requiring them to get replacements from Microsoft on multiple occasions. That is unacceptable and likely plays a huge part in the reason the Band doesn't exist today.
Band really was a quality product
With those issues aside, if Microsoft had held out just a couple more years in the wearables market, it could have been onto a winner. Assuming the company figured out the durability issues, the Microsoft Band 2 would have been a fantastic wearable. It had excellent fitness tracking, superb smartwatch features like replying to texts and invoking voice-assistant related tasks, and a beautiful curved OLED screen.
The software was smooth, beautiful, and elegant. I'd argue most wearables on the market still don't get the software side of things right, like the Microsoft Band did. If Microsoft had kept the Band going, it would've been interesting to see how that ecosystem grew. Would developers jump on with support for the Band? We know the Band 3 was going to be waterproof, but would a Band 4 support NFC payments? These kinds of evolutions would've been a natural progression for the Band competing in the wearables market.
It's very likely that the primary reason the Band was killed was that at the time it wasn't making any money for Microsoft. I've heard through numerous sources that Microsoft was selling the Band 2 at a loss, even with its high $250 price tag. If true, Microsoft would have had to hold out for longer before that tech would fall in price and become cheap enough for the company to manufacture and sell at the $250 price. But the wearables market was moving quickly, and Microsoft had shareholders it needed to please, especially with the impending death of Lumia and Windows 10 Mobile looming.
If Microsoft had decided to take a chance on Band, and had it failed, we could've been looking at another Windows 10 Mobile for Microsoft, which would've been a nightmare. So, it was safer for Microsoft to jump ship when it did, before it poured too much money into Band. Maybe it would've been successful, maybe not. It would've been fascinating to see where things went, though. It seems the Band's fate is sealed, as Microsoft is pulling support for the service that powers it in May.
Rest in peace.
What are your thoughts? Should Microsoft have stayed in the wearables market? Let us know below.
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Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.
On the subject of band, yes I believe they should have continued, even if it was losing money. Heck they make keyboard and mice, so they can as well have some low profit venture into wearables. It was a missed opportunity I think.
The Samsung Watch is the best for all, fitness,health,and phone notifications & Samsung Pay!
As far as coming up with a new popular device - they did that... but didn't market them enough to make a difference. The phones were great, and the band fantastic, but it seems they just tried to float it onto the marketplace just on name alone - that wont do it now. I disagree with the statement they didn't make a great product.. they've made several (albeit, the Band 2 needed a bit of a re-work on the band of it.. but that would have been an easy fix). It just seems that their trips into the mobile marketplaces seemed to lack the amount of marketing needed to make them float... They've gotten too used to not having to market a new product because in their eyes I'm sure they just thing that "everyone just buys" whatever we put out"... which wont cut it in breaking into a new market. The Band 2 would have spread like wildfire if it had been marketed properly AND, they'd engineered a simple in-store warranty fix for the band - or even if it hadn't been in-store... as long as they got it fixed. It's all in the marketing, and unfortunately, they're used to not really having to break into a new market - They didn't kill it too early based on what they did.. just wish I still had mine around.
- The Excel journey started in 1985, Word in 1991, PowerPoint in 1987, Access in 1992, Project in 1984, Visio in 1992, Xbox in 2001, Windows since 1985, Azure since 2006, Surface since 2012, Visual C++ since 1993, Microsoft mouse since 1983, Microsoft natural keyboard since 1994 etc. etc. etc. all of the above software and hardware is still around hence successful, otherwise they would have killed it. Like any other company they kill-off the products that do not meet the ROI/ROCE requirements within a reasonable timeframe. That's why MS is still around, stronger then ever with their relentless drive for (profitable) hw/sw and their killer-instinct to phase out products that do not meet the high bar. Compared to Apple MS is not a one-trick poney (iPhone and Ipad) but has a striking balance between cloud, software, hardware and commercial services (not mentioned above) but for sure a money making juggernaut as well. The empire always strikes back....when the time is right. Like any other company they have the duty to turn unsuccessful products in to oblivion for their shareholders. But even then products that have been abandoned in the past still work well under W10 like FrontPage 2003, or MS Expression suite or even MS Money (still working well - available for free). So please do not lecture Microsoft about resilience and tenacity, I would say it is their middle name.
la Nadella, is a recipe for long term failure. Get with the program, business solutions are the icing on the cake and not the cake.
Here are my Microsoft Band 2 shortcomings:
- The Bluetooth communication with windows 10 mobile was often unreliable
- The GPS tracking was way slow and often bugged in the calculation of distance and speed
- There was no way to export the outdoor sessions to, say, google earth
- The battery didn't absolutely last enough for a normal MTB session
- The barometer turned to be soon unreliable (common issue): the altitude was totally wrong
- At the age of 1.5 years the band couldn't turn on anymore. Only after a useless assistance, I discovered by myself it was due to the charger death
- At 2-2.5 years the battery had lost most of its capacity (it lasted 3 hours just in clock mode!)
- At 2.5 years the rubber strip got almost completely torn in two points Yes, a little bit overpriced I guess.
Now, IMHO this is the same story as windows mobile. It's obvious that, at some point, you decide when, a truly bad decision was made by Microsoft.
Either they decide not to enter the market at all (prototype immature? engineering not expert enough? sector not strategical for the company? etc.) or, if they step into the arena, they HAVE to struggle and sacrifice until they are sure there's no room for improvement at all. Just like they did with Surface. Does anybody know if the first two Surface iterations were that remunerative? And what about the money earned so far with HoloLens? Finally, I think that, also in this blog, people fit the economic theme to the need of the discussion. The goal here is to justify the recent much criticized kills by Microsoft, and to hide the ideology in them. This is curious by the way cause blogs like this are suffering a lot for the Nadella's "no consumer" attitude. Do they not?
My question is what is the best approach to using the B2 in the post May 31 cutoff of the MS Health back-end?
Certain "cloud" integrated features will no longer work. OK
So I can turn off Bluetooth on the B2 device (better battery depletion w/BT off) and disconnect from the Bluetooth connected phone/Band application? Band app uses about 10% of phone battery daily so that depletion of the phone battery is gone now too.
It is now a stand alone device and the sports/activity functions will work.
Change the set clock to manual set.
These are all more of questions rather than statements...am I forgetting something?
Speaking about the Bluetooth, I'd say there's no reason why they would remove the pairing and the notification process. You leave the app installed and you should keep receiving notifications on the band. Moreover, I'm sure the app package will be anyway available underground on xda or similar.
I actually considered an Apple watch but they are overpriced and trap you into the Apple ecosystem so nope!!I would go back to an MS phone and/or smartwatch if they came out with one and provided some assurance that they would stick with it for a while.
I do miss my WM phone also. When attached to Bluetooth it would read text messages long before the feature was available on Android or IOS. It was easy to switch between apps long before Android and IOS added the features. The HP X3 was a good flagship phone. Had the application ecosystem been better WM would have been a force to compete with. Not having the financial applications turned out to be the deal killer for me.