Microsoft OneUps Apple and Gets a Bigger Data Game

You have to love Satya Nadella’s Microsoft. He announces a vision and the company delivers, Bada Bing, Bada Band.

Nope, “Band” isn’t a typo -- we’re talking about the Microsoft Band. It went on sale yesterday and, get this, it sold out online almost immediately. A few Microsoft retail stores (that no one knows about) may still have one, at least until the mall rats start telling everyone that a new store just opened.

For now the Band is being branded as a fitness tool (we’ll get to features in a moment) but it’s really about productivity, machine learning, Cortana and data.

This baby is going to have your number(s) and has the potential to run your life.

Unlike anything that Apple is likely to come up with, it’s cross platform, so it will work with your iPhone, Android or Windows phone.

If it takes off, your window to the world will be the Band, not your phone, because all you’ll have to do to know who’s calling, emailing or texting you is to look at it. Your Facebook, Twitter, calendar and even stock market and weather feeds can be there as well. Ditto for a timer and an alarm. You can even use it to pay for your coffee at Starbucks.


Healthy ... and Productive 

So what’s the fitness part? It provides a lot of the information that other trackers do, like the number of steps you take, how far you’ve gone, your heart rate, the calories you’ve burned, sleep quality data. But it also tells you things most others don’t, like the temperature of your skin and potentially how to get home after you’ve ventured off on the road not taken.

And though Cortana’s answers and insights are available to Windows phone users now ... it’s hard to imagine that that won’t change.

What’s the benefit of all of the aforementioned information? We know that Microsoft’s machine learning technology can leverage all of that data to help coach you to a better workout, better sleep, better nutrition (when it's paired with other apps). Microsoft knows and/or is teaming with its community and some of the world’s best developers to imagine other possibilities.

The Band is being productized under Microsoft Health right now and it’s an easy sell to aging boomers who are worried or want to brag about their health, athletic geeks who like to know their stats as they’re working out to help them perform better (or keep from getting bored), and maybe even those who like selfies -- of their insides.

But it’s also a compelling productivity tool that might even get more “eye time” than our phones.

And if Microsoft succeeds on the latter, it won’t matter that the Windows phone never took off.

Title image by Ed Yourdon (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license