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Microsoft Band customers get scrooged even before holidays start

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 26, 2014
Microsoft's email says no more Band sales online, but the situation is -- apparently -- fluid.

microsoft band starbucks
Credit: Microsoft

Three days after saying stock of its new Band smart wristband would be replenished throughout the coming holidays, Microsoft changed course.

In an email to potential Band customers sent late Monday, Microsoft said "we no longer have any [Bands] available for online sale" and urged customers to check local Microsoft stores that "may" have some in stock through the holidays.

Customers were given a one-time $10 promo code to use with a future online purchase of $50 or more to "make it right," according to the emailed letter.

After an inquiry by Computerworld on Tuesday, a Microsoft spokeswoman said via email that "there are indeed plans to replenish inventory through the holiday season and we're working first to fill back orders in [physical Microsoft] stores."

Inventory for Band has been on again and off again. After it first went on sale Oct. 30, online orders were suspended after about two weeks, then reinstituted Nov. 18, only to sell out in the next day or so.

Customers and analysts criticized Microsoft for its handling of the matter. Microsoft had clearly intended the $199.99 Band to "showcase the power of Microsoft Health" software for multiple smartphone platforms, but some said the company didn't give enough attention to Band stockpiles.

Microsoft Health is health and fitness-related software that can run on multiple smartphone operating systems -- Windows Phone, Android and iOS. Microsoft also is making software tools available to developers to design wearables that can run Microsoft Health.

The Band has multiple sensors for detecting heart rate and other inputs. It includes a tiny microphone to take voice commands that can be relayed to a Windows Phone smartphone running the Cortana digital assistant. It also can be connected via Bluetooth to other smartphone platforms for various functions.

Interest in Band is partly due to a heightened interest in wearables generally, including smartwatches such as the Apple Watch, due to ship in early 2015.

Dan Schliebe, a potential Band customer who works at a health club in the Denver area, called Microsoft's email on Monday and decision to give a promo code for $10 a "bogus decision" and "unbelievable."

Schliebe went online to buy a Band on Nov. 18 when sales were restarted after the first stoppage. He also talked by phone that day with a Microsoft employee who assured him that his online purchase had been made. Later, he discovered it wasn't actually made.

Schliebe then sent an email to Microsoft which he copied to Computerworld on Tuesday calling the decision not to sell online "a poor one" adding he "wouldn't waste ... time waiting in line at a local store which is ... very crazy, especially during the holiday season."


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