THE world’s biggest software company will launch wearable technology in Australian stores tomorrow, and it has the big names in fitness tracking and smartwatches in its sights.
Microsoft’s sensor-packed Band 2 is designed to take on the likes of Fitbit, Apple and Samsung with a mixture of fitness-tracking features and smartphone notifications, and the company says its convergence makes it “stickier” than the “generic” competition.
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The software giant revealed its plans in Sydney today, and will roll out its wearable technology in electronics and sports stores tomorrow, including JB Hi-Fi and Rebel Sport, for $380.
Microsoft Band product manager Adam Pollington said the device would unashamedly target the big names in wearable technology with a combination of fitness and smartwatch features.
“If you look at the market today, there are two pretty clear segments — you’ve got the activity tracker market and you have the smartwatch side with productivity and connectivity,” he said.
“The Microsoft Band sits in a new sub-segment of smart bands.”
Microsoft’s first Australian wearable technology release is the sequel to a model released in the States in late 2014, and features 11 sensors including GPS to track cycling, a heart-rate sensor to track exertion, a galvanic skin response sensor to measure stress, barometer for elevation, and a UV sensor to tell you whether you need sunscreen — something Mr Pollington said would prove particularly useful in Australia.
The Microsoft Band 2 also connects to Apple iPhone, Google Android and Windows Phones to deliver notifications to its rectangular touchscreen, from incoming phone calls to tweets and SMS messages.
Mr Pollington said it was this crossover into the smartwatch space that could convince
Fitbit, Jawbone and Garmin users to switch camps.
“If you are an avid user of Fitbit, I think you’ll notice quite a lot more functionality just through the sensors we have built into this product,” he said.
“Where we’re finding customers are getting an ongoing benefit, though, is through those smartwatch features that we’re pulling down into the band category.
“Having the ability to chat these additional features is really making the Microsoft Band quite sticky in comparison to some generic activity trackers.”
The new device’s positioning as a fitness band first follows research that exercise-tracking technology is significantly more popular than its smartwatch rival to date.
In a new report, Juniper Research forecasts wearable fitness technology to lead smartwatches for the next three years.
It is only in 2019, according to Future Health and Fitness Wearables report author James Moar, that smartwatches will pull ahead with 130 million users to fitness technology’s 110 million.
“The use of wearables to track health shows promise but such devices will not reach their full potential until they can become less dependent on mobile devices to relay their information,” Mr Moar said.