With the iWatch rumored to launch sometime this fall, competitors like Microsoft aren't sitting idly by. According to a recent report from longtime Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott, the folks in Redmond are prepping their own wearable device that will have a decidedly fitness oriented bent.
My sources tell me instead that Microsoft will this fall release a Samsung Gear Fit-like fitness band that will display smart phone-based notifications, just like the current and rumored watches and other wearables. So that's the first bit of rumor busting: It's a wristband, not a watch. (Yes, I'm sure you'll be able to see the time on its screen. But the form factor is a wristband.
From a differentiation standpoint, Microsoft's wearable will do something that no other wearable platform does. It will work with everything and not just the device maker's smart phone platform. Where Samsung wearables only work with Samsung phones, Android Wear devices only work with modern Android devices, and Apple's rumored iWatch will obviously only work with iPhone, Microsoft will take a different approach. It will work with Android, iPhone and Windows Phone.
If true, the notion that Microsoft would release a device compatible across devices is a rather surprising, yet smart, idea. Despite Microsoft's best efforts, the marketshare of Windows Phone devices remains abysmally low, though there have been incremental gains in recent years. Nonetheless, the smartphone race is a decidedly iOS vs. Android affair and Microsoft would only be shooting itself in the foot to release a new product category that only worked with their own smartphone offerings.
Microsoft of course won't have big shoes to fill as Samsung's own efforts to introduce a fitness oriented wearable have been subpar at best. Most recently, the rollout of Samsung's Gear Fit fitness band has been met with less than stellar reviews. Indeed, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak — an avowed gadget geek — recently tossed his Galaxy Gear smartwatch to the curb.
"That was the only technology I bought to experiment with that I threw out after half a day, sold it on eBay because it was so worthless and did so little that was convenient," Wozniak said. "You had to hold it up to your ear and stuff."
Suffice it to say, Microsoft will have to develop a product that people actually get some utility out of. We'll see how it all pans out.
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