How important is cross-platform support to the Microsoft Band?

12 Comments

Credit: Microsoft

I bought my first smartwatch in 2004, having spent around $140 for a Microsoft SPOT Watch. It pre-dated smartphones so the information my watch provided came Microsoft’s $59 MSN Direct subscription service over FM radio waves. Now Microsoft is back with the $199 Microsoft Band, a health-focused wearable for your wrist that does pair with a phone to show incoming calls, texts, emails and more.

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Between the SPOT Watch and the Band, we’ve seen dozens of similar devices come to market, and with few exceptions, they always had some lock-in factor; not just to a mobile operating system, but (even worse) to brands of devices. I think [company]Microsoft[/company] is taking a very smart approach here by supporting [company]Google[/company] Android, [company]Apple[/company] iOS and Windows Phone with its Band; perhaps offering a bit of leadership in the mobile market, which it hasn’t done for a few years.

Microsoft bandThe biggest two recent examples, of course, are the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices. Both are tied to their respective mobile platforms: The Apple Watch will require an iPhone according to Apple, while Android Wear watches require an Android device for their information and connection. I doubt Apple has any intention to change its approach, but Google has at least hinted that it might bring Android Wear support to other platforms, such as iOS. It’s worth noting that Google Glass actually is supported on iOS through its MyGlass app.

Why is this even a big deal? Because it limits device choice and that could negatively impact sales of these smartwatches.

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Take the Motorola MotoACTV, for example; a smartwatch that debuted in 2011. I bought one for myself but not until 2012. Why? Because when the watch first launched, it only worked with Motorola smartphones even though it runs Android itself and connects wirelessly through a standard Bluetooth connection. Why buy a nice new accessory when it locks you in to a brand of phone that may not be the one you want?

Motorola quickly realized that by limiting the accessory to work only with its own brand of phones, it was severely limiting potential as its phone sales were starting to decline. Yes, Apple is taking the same approach with its Apple Watch but it’s doing so when iPhone sales are growing. And it’s not using a licensed operating system but instead is using its own.

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Pebble is another example in this story but one that demonstrates the good part of being a cross-platform device. The company has sold more than 400,000 watches to date. How many would it have sold if it only supported iOS or Android instead of both? We’ll never know but it’s obviously less than 400,000.

I’m likely in the minority here but I use various devices throughout a given day ranging between all three of the major mobile platforms. So the Microsoft Band is actually a little more appealing to me than either an Apple Watch or Android Wear device right now.

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After all, smartwatches generally all have the same basic “table stakes” functionality: Some health tracking with sensors, app notifications and messages from your phone. Other differences are almost like add-ons to me and may have to be specific to a particular platform. Microsoft’s Band will work with Cortana but the voice assistant software is, for now, only supported on Windows Phone 8.1 devices.

I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t want to be locked in to a platform simply because of a wearable device, however. I’m curious to hear your thoughts in the comments and — if you plan to buy a smartwatch — see the results in a simple poll question on the desire for cross-platform support.

Regardless of the poll results and commentary, I suspect Google will add iOS support for Android Wear before or at its developer conference in mid-2015. Why not get an iPhone accessory to work with the many Google services and apps supported on the iPhone?

12 Comments

Andrés Alexander Portela III

Today I purchased a Microsoft band and I like it but I feel some of the short falls. I feel kind of feel restrict. I want an assistant either Siri or cortona but I don’t have that.. I also want the ability to use apple pay with it, I mean they gave me a Starbucks gift card to use NFC but it would be much more enjoyable to use Apple Pay.

Gregg

No question…if profit is your goal, they should all be cross platform…

George

It’s huge for many companies. If these were to be supported for enterprise BYOD, then rather than supporting Apple Pay and Android Wear and Microsoft Band, they could just support Microsoft Band. Add an app (can you install new apps?) like Good for Enterprise with a Band app, and that’s pretty sweet.

Greg

When I visited the Scottsdale MS store yesterday to check out the Band, I was told I can’t get any notifications (text, email, or calendar) from my Android phone displayed on the Band. So I left feeling it doesn’t deliver enough functionality to me.

Kevin C. Tofel

Greg, that sounds like bad information to me. I’ll be pairing mine with an Android phone this weekend to double check but Microsoft is making a big deal of how this works with Android as well as iOS and WP, although you need Windows Phone to use Cortana and canned text replies don’t work with iPhone.

Truffol

Yes. cross platform support is definitely their main strategy, but I think the real innovative product here is Microsoft Health rather than just the band. Cross platform support allows you to swap between phone OS but Health features “cross-wearable” support where you can swap out your fitness band whenever without losing data. The latter is definitely more likely to happen than the former

Lawnboy

Yes, Microsoft has really thought this product through very well. Prior to seeing the unboxing of this device on Windows Central, I was ambivalent and really had no interest in a “smart watch” or fitness band.

But after seeing how polished it is and how well it integrates with the phone app, I am reconsidering. Microsoft has knocked this one out of the park.

Buzz Bruggeman

I think you are exactly right. And given the dearth or perhaps the perceived lack of apps for WinMobile, limiting the band to WindowsMobile would be fatal. That said, given how long it’s been since I’ve worn a watch, I’m not sure I will buy any of them.

T

The platform is called Windows and Windows Phone. Saying WinMobile is sort of like saying Yphone… People understand you but your comment shows you know very little of Windows. Windows now has 500,000 apps. It’s third of what Apple has, and grows faster than Apple or Android. The Band is awesome. It pretty much kills at $199 all competition: snobbish pompous and unavailable Apple Watch with 1/5 or Band sensors and 1/2 of battery life for twice the price $349. Fitbit is pretty much dead for $250 device that has a fraction of what Band can do. And Android is a mess.

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