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Why Microsoft Band is in short supply (it's not a marketing conspiracy)

This week, Microsoft entered the health and fitness wearables business with the Band. The Microsoft Band is meant to crush the competition, take on Fitbit, Jawbone, Apple, and Android Wear. Therefore, it makes sense that Microsoft wants limited supplies so that they can garner 'sold out' headlines everywhere, creating the appearance of high demand.

The only problem with everything I just wrote is it is entirely wrong. Let me squelch some myths here about the Microsoft Band and what Microsoft is trying to do.

Myth 1 – Microsoft Band is built to compete with the fitness wearable industry

False. Microsoft Band is best thought of as a demonstration device for Microsoft's sensor and software technology. The bigger story this week is not the Microsoft Band but rather the Microsoft Health platform, but since Microsoft Health cannot be photographed or worn, it is less impressive.

Enter in the Microsoft Band to demo the capabilities of the Microsoft Health platform.

Did you know that everything in the Microsoft Band could be optionally licensed out to any manufacture? Microsoft said it (opens in new tab):

"Microsoft Health is designed to benefit our partners in many ways. For new entrants and startups we have a complete offering that includes our app, and APIs as well as cloud storage for their data. Existing services can upload their data to Microsoft Health and take advantage of our advanced algorithms and the powerful machine learning from our Intelligence Engine to give their customers insights. New devices can license our 10 wrist-worn sensor modules to gather robust data including active heart rate, sleep and GPS ."

See that last sentence there? It is super important. If the Microsoft Band was meant to be the be-all, end-all of fitness wearables, why are they so eager to let every company license all of that 'exclusive' technology? This proclamation is a significant indication of Microsoft's real strategy here.

Microsoft does not want to put companies like Jawbone or Fitbit out of business, they want them to collaborate with Microsoft. Yes, this means Fitbit's next device could utilize the hardware/sensor setup found in the Band. At the very least it means those companies can tie into Microsoft's Health platform so that even if they do not use Microsoft's sensor technology, they can share the data.

Trying to convince those companies to join you while destroying them in their market is not a great strategy, and it is not what Microsoft is trying to do with the Band.

PCs, the Surface and history

Think of Microsoft's core business: the PC. Microsoft sells licenses to other companies to make awesome hardware. When those manufacturers are not doing a great job, Microsoft can do something like the Surface. Once again, the Surface was not meant to obliterate their partners, it was designed to light a fire under them to make better hardware. The Surface is intended to set the standard, which is why it is less important how well it does and more valuable to see of other OEMs can make some excellent two-in-one computers following it.

The Band kickstarts this process by setting the bar. Microsoft does not necessarily want the Band to take over the fitness industry; they want those companies to license out their hardware and software, just like PCs.

The Microsoft Band has to do well, but not so well it scares off potential partners.

Myth 2 – Short supply is meant to generate headlines

I always hear this reasoning: companies purposefully make fewer devices so that it creates the appearance of high demand. Therefore, people want those devices even more.

Sorry, but this theory is bollocks. Everyone knows the business is about getting the product into people's hands. If you do not, you risk that they may buy something else. Lines are good, but you can have lines and ample supply of something. If Microsoft wanted to do that with the Band they could.

No, the more rational reasoning for the Microsoft Band's limited supply is two-fold (1) Secrecy and (2) This is a demonstration device.

Did you notice how there were no leaks of the Microsoft Band? No photos, no sightings, nothing coming from some production line in China. Had Microsoft opted to go full blast on this release, we would have known about it weeks ago. Instead, out of nowhere, it was announced Thursday night, and it was ready to buy the next morning.

Think about that and the logistics involved! You need to keep the operation small and tight in order to pull that sort of launch off.

There is also the reason mentioned above: the Microsoft Band is only a demonstration device meant to show off the Microsoft Health platform. High sales are respectable, but Microsoft's primary goal here is not necessarily to sell millions of these things, but to catch the attention of the partner manufacturers while stirring up excitement for consumers.

Having said that, I am sure if the industry as a whole snubs Microsoft, they are more than happy to ramp up the Band's production and go all out with it. I am not sure that is a fight smaller companies want to have though.

Microsoft and Fitbit

According to our sources, early next week Microsoft and AT&T are going to announce the Lumia 830 for the US market. I have reported earlier that a limited-time promotion involves giving a Fitbit Flex ($99 value) to new or renewing customers who purchase a Lumia 830.

I can already hear people exclaiming how 'dumb' Microsoft is for promoting Fitbit when they just announced their fitness band. However, as noted above, Microsoft is not looking to push Fitbit out of the way. Instead, Microsoft wants to work with them and doing this promotion is one way you can accomplish such careful diplomacy.

Make friends, not enemies (but don't be afraid to make waves either)

In conclusion, Microsoft is not being stupid, obtuse, or shortsighted with the Band and its release. The device itself is intended to highlight their Health platform and to lure companies into the Microsoft ecosystem. Yes, it will likely go to other markets in the near future, but do not expect Microsoft to go full blast on this smart accessory.

Microsoft is playing a long-term game, and that involves trying to woo potential partners to side with them (and keep Google at bay). Although it may cause frustration for customers who want this exciting wearable right this moment, Microsoft has to tread lightly here if they want friends – and not enemies – in this business.

While many of you just want to own this very device, Microsoft is thinking where they will be in this market two or three years from now. If you switch positions with them, the strategy they are pursuing is a very interesting one. Why settle for just the Microsoft Band when there could be half a dozen products utilizing the same technology, all with unique qualities?

Competition is good, and Microsoft wants it badly for the Microsoft Health platform. Microsoft Band is the kickoff for that strategy.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

455 Comments
  • I honestly think these fitness bands are a fad that will fade soon
  • You would be very wrong. Fads don't generate millions of dollars in revenue. This is also more than 'fitness' as the Microsoft Band crosses over into smartwatch territory with alerts, notifications, Cortana and more. This is just the beginning of IoT (Internet of Things) and putting computers in devices and wearables. How that technology evolves and changes is the exciting part - it won't be all health and fitness. But make no mistake, this technology is here and it is staying. It is like saying in 2006 smartphones are a fad (everyone told me that who had a Razr).
  • Daniel, please send me one. It will be like your GOOD DEED OF THE YEAR. I'm in Algeria so there's no way for me to buy one and we can't shop online. You will be making a kid's chrismas wish come true (a 26 years old kid, lol). I bought a 1020 recently and I live in MS ecosystem and this band is making me drule especially since I go running and walk a lot.
  • Aramex forwarding?
  • Buy it on ebay!
  • I am so tempted. At $500 cnd not happening.
  • Be an adult and buy one for yourself.
  • I live in the US and still can't buy one lol
  • I agree it is not a fad, but your argument that fads do not generate millions of dollars in revenue is not proof of that. Remember the pet rock?
  • Yeah what about games like rock band? It was a fad that is completely gone now, made a lot of money while it was around though.
  • Because its a game. This is not even the same planet. This can be improved and changed over time. Its adaptable I suppose. Remember that Apple has one too... And they do nothing wrong... /s lol
  • Not sure what point your trying to make. I was just saying fads DO make millions of dollars is all....
  • That game may be gone but rhythm games in general are still around...
  • Or Rubik's Cube
  • Must I even say it..... Silly bands
  • My pet rock isn't a fad! We've been together for years!
  • Yup, the Firby, tickle me Elmo, Fannie Packs lol
  • Beenie Babies?
  • I'm patiently waiting for Redmond to ask for volunteers to implant chips into their head. I'll be replying to your articles without moving mahahhaha!
  • Fad diets do, car design fads do, clothes design fads do create millions of dollars in profits. Wearables might replace the smartphone, might become implantables, might be in clothes... Who knows. Either way, make that money now!
  • You're wrong about fads...  they can and often DO generate absurd amounts of revenue.  See: Beanie Babies, Backstreet Boys and the Matrix trilogy. But wearables?  Yeah, no.  Not a fad.
  • I think people are being a bit too pedantic in contradicting Daniel. Fads don't make as many millions as things that aren't fads because they don't survive long enough to do so.
  • Microsoft and all the other companies that make/sell smart watches need to add medical alerts from companies like MedicAlert to these devices. That way if someone that has a medical condition need's help (ambulance, etc.), they can get it at the press of a button. This would also be useful in the event of automobile accident's, fires, etc. to get help as fast as possible. IT'S A MUST FEATURE. If this was added, the devices would sell like hotcake's. 
  • I've fallen and can't get up...
  • It's a must have feature. You're right, it only take's one time to need it, to realize how necessary it is.
  • Good point. It can't be all that hard to add emergency notification to any wrist band. It could be very useful for most everyone at a small cost and little inconvience, and, most importantly, one only needs to really need it one time to make it indispensible. Cost/benefit wise.
  • Mistakendly reported your response Daniel (got click happy), SMH.  Loved it though!!
  • So they don't want to make a whole lot because they don't want to make enemies. So in theory, they are keeping supply low, but not because why people think, but so that they don't tread on the other guys. So, it is in their best interest to not make too many more, or they risk alienating other manufacturers. So there is still a bit of a "conspiracy" here, just not the one people thought.
    Because personally, I prefer Microsoft devices because they tend to integrate into the Microsoft ecosystem better than any third party.
  • And very high-quality...
  • Sorry Mr. Rubino, but history is filled with fads that have generated millions of dollars in revenue. As for the rest, you are most correct. Good day sir.
  • I totally agree with you. Till now, our interaction with these smart devices was pretty one sided. However, the development of wearables and the sensor technology will enable these smart devices (like tablet, PC or smartphones) to interact with us. This also makes these devices more intelligent.
  • You couldn't be more correct!!
  • Sorry, Daniel pet rocks were a fad and so are these.  Most people i know with one of these fitbit type devices wear them a few weeks then they sit on the dresser.  Why?  People get tired of chagring them and after a few weeks folks just say who the heck cares how many steps I take a day. Any person who is properly motivated to work out doesn't need one of these to modivate them.
  • Heeyyy, I still have my TV Brick and luvvin it all these years...
  • While I sort if agree, there was a study done that showed something like 70-80% of those who bought a fitness band/smartwatch stopped using it after two months or so
  • Wrong. These bands are heavily used by gym goers and athletes...
  • I agree there is a tremendous amount of potential for wearables.Lots more than even the geekiest among us knows about too. Right now, I can honestly say that I am not interested in getting one.  I am physically disabled, so a lot of this fitness stuff I can't really benefit from.  And I cannot speak, so the voice commands wouldn't do me much good. The thing is people really don't have access to their phones all of the time.  They need to reach for their phones. It's either in a pocket or on something.  It's not before you.  You always have your wrist. They still need to figure out how people are going to communicate with it, though.  Is it always going to be by talking  to it?  Probably not. Probably anything that could be controlled electronically, someone is already dreaming up ways to pair it up with a device like a watch. 
  • Excellent job "1armedGeek" of bringing perspective relevant to a disability to this thread. Brings up a really good point that I've already run into after 3 days of wearing my band. How do I interact with it when I don't have the ability to press either button with the opposite hand? Before the community jumps to the obvious "easy jokes" here, first ran into it while holding my daughter's Halloween candy haul and other cumbersome items and wanted to set a quick reminder via Cortana via the band. My immediate thought was that it would be nice if I could "tap twice" with my chin, knuckle, forehead, etc to have Cortana start listening. Easy thing to add via firmware assuming touch screen hardware can distinguish between accidental and intentional activation. I believe it can, since several things apparently require a "long press" to confirm. Anyhow, great comment that is sure to start people thinking as to how to make the product better.
  • Although I don't necessarily agree that fitnes bands are a fad, fads can and have created millions of dollars in revenue with fear of dating myself I can vividly recall the pet rock fad that inexplicably swept the nation in my youth. Why so many people would purchase a common rock still baffles me.
  • I agree with you almost entirely but; "Fads don't generate millions of dollars in revenue"... You should aske Apple on that one point!
  • But on the same hand very few people think they actually need one other than athletes(wannabes too) or IT geeks. Wearables yes they are here to stay but I doubt anyone today will guess the final outcome correctly.  
  • I feel the opposite. Especially the one for WP. If you read everything it can do... It's fascinating the possibilities. Helps track your health and gives you an extension to your phone. Possibilities are endless. Didn't want one until I took the time to see what this is actually capable of. The Band specifically, sold me on the idea.
  • It not only tracks but learns your routine and makes suggestions...amazing!!!
  • I'm a quite lazy person when talking about fitness (although I like long walks and swimming), but I still want this band since it helps me interact with my WP remotely.
  • I use the Band to track my sleeping patterns. It's so cool to know: How long it took me to fall asleep, how many calories I burned.  How many hr of restful sleep and how many hr of light sleep. etc..
  • Oh yeah, the sleep. It's the most mysterious thing for me, I have so much questions. Hope this band will be available soon worldwide =\
  • Same here. I do run a bit, but in mostly into it because it lets me control my phone to a certain degree.
  • I disagree. My new Nokia Lumia 830 counts my steps just having it in my pocket. Something my Lumia 1020 couldn't do. And you know what? It's actually motivating me to be more active. Now I just wish it could track my heart rate so that I can see if I'm pushing myself hard enough. Time to get a fitness band I guess...
  • My nintendo 3ds count my steps too...
  • My Lumia 635 can do that too. I guess we have Nokia and their SensorCore thing to thank for that. But I've been rather concerned about my health recently (I'm 17 and I still weigh only 100 lbs, and I have a tendency to get lightheaded at times, since, apparently, I don't have enough sodium in my blood), so I'm probably going to get a Microsoft Band sometime this year. But that's just an estimate.
  • How long have Polar fitness watches been around? Since 1977.
  • And as a Finn, I worry about how much longer they will be, unless they partner up with somone (say even Nokia).
  • This stuff will be huge for people with actual health conditions. Add a glucose meter and every diabetic will have one possibly covered by insurance. "Fitness" bands may be a fad but the devices are probably going to be in all kinds of places.
  • Except fads don't generate hundreds of millions of dollars...plus that's wat they (Apple etc) said about the Samsung Galaxy Note..look at them now!
  • No, I don't think so. Instead, I think that as they become more accessible to more people, and the technology shows a clear path to better health, they'll become ubiquitous. I can easily see a future where parents buy them for the whole family in hopes of inculcating healthy habits and lifestyle choices from a young age. This is technology that can make lives better, make no mistake.
  • I believe Milli Vanilli and Justin Beiber generated millions of dollars.
  • I've seen enough family members who are not interested in tech get addicted to Fitbit to the point that they will never go another day without one to say that this market is definitely not a fad. We've had Fitbit for years and still use it religiously.
  • Yeah, I read an article about people becoming obsessed with meeting challenges and causing themselves some physical discomfort
  • It's not just a fitness band though....
  • +925 Yes, they are a fad.  Half the people here would buy microsh*ts if they were sold and advertised by Microsoft
  • They are not going to fade. See "The running man" fitness band. http://www.dvdactive.com/images/reviews/screenshot/2010/2/running0.jpg http://www.moviepilot.de/files/images/0429/4032/the-running-man-movie-03_article.jpg  
  • That second one was an explosive collar, which I guess might be incorporated in some sort of fitness band. Exercise or die.
  • I tend to agree with fitness bands being  fad - but wearables certainly are not. I may be splitting hairs here - but I'd much rather have a smart watch (a very smart watch) with fitness features, than a fitness band with smart watch features. One of the main problems I have with the Band is it's shape, it seems very unwieldy. There is a reason why wrist watches have the shape and orientation they do, it's a very natural form.
  • You'll have to try one on. I thought the same thing as a former watch wearer. You almost forget it is there after a while. Now, would it be better with a curved-glass screen? Yes. About the only things that have made me notice it from an everyday perspective are: 1) Narrow-cuffed clothing, where I have to twist the wrist a bit to slide the sleeve cuff over it (minor). 2) When written on the inside of the wrist, it slightly touches the surface that your keyboard rests on while typing. Now, I imagine that might speak more to improper "typing form", but nonetheless, it is a reminder that it is there and that a curved screen would be better. Band 2.0, coming next Fall with the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Phone 1! ;)
  • So only 10 months to save up $3,000. Doable, but I won't wait. Will have Band v1, Surface Pro and new WP in Janauary.
    -SAB And sell them in the Fall. Done.
  • You should have a video to more articles. Talking about it. Even if you replace podcasts. Just an idea. I enjoy watching them on YouTube. Like tech buffalo or whatever they call themselves. Makes it more personal. Just an idea! Plus your videos are very well made. Not annoying for example lol
  • The idea has crossed my mind. Matter of us expanding, possible getting a proper office/studio setup ;)
  • Why not! You can only get more viewers! That can't be so bad ;) Plus I like being able to go to one source for everything. Thanks for replying and considering my opinion. Keep it up!
  • I expect this idea will convert into reality sooner rather than later! :)
  • Probably :)
  • It doesn't hurt that you're easy on the eyes, either.
  • LOL.
  • Something as simple as what Steve L. From AAWP does would be a cool start. Especially using a Lumia 1020 or Nokia 808.
  • "Something as simple as what Steve L. From AAWP does" But with accurate information.
  • Windows Central world headquarters, yeah!
  • And also I would maybe like to see articles posted to Flipboard. That actually would be pretty cool. Just a thought
  • I've been thinking of this ever since I downloaded the Flipboard app. However, I prefer using the WCentral app due to the "comments" section, "video links," and "email notifications" whenever someone replies to your comment. That's just me though.
  • That's a good idea, BUT I need my data safe, also reading has its benefits!
  • I think the Podcast would have to be an ongoing thing for it to be replaced. It's been MIA for months.
  • I never watch videos. And I never say never. If I have to be subjected to videos, at least give me a transcription too.-SAB
  • My version would be in addition to the written article.... So we'd have written... Pictures... And video. Everyone wins
  • Who will use this ? Seriously
  • Me
  • Maybe the people who bought it and love it..
    and the people who wants it.. Is not meant for everyone, so don't feel obligated to buy it too...
  • Who needs a smartphone? Why not live in a cave? Seriously what was the point of your trolling comment?
  • Not a troll, just reality. La cible est trop réduite pour ce genre de produits, peu de persones vont être intéressés. Nous attentions tous une montre connectée, sans rapport avec le monde du "fitness"... Why fitness ? (yes, use a translator from french, couldn't find the right words in english)
  • Fitness is at the core of health. Heart rate, pulse, exercise, and so forth are vital keys to that part of a person's overall health. Then, add sleep monitoring (another important step) and then nutritional intake from apps like MyFitnessPal. So in other words, these devices can play a vital role to help one live a better (and prolonged) life. So...yes, a fad is not the right word. I'd get this over an Xbox One any day. :) life is fragile
  • It's really not that small of a market. There's a reason there are more and more companies making fitness devices these days. People are buying them.
  • Nobody!  They just sold to a bunch of Microsoft Band(s) to "Nobody" and it's now o