Don't expect a new Microsoft Band device this year (or maybe ever)

Microsoft's Band fitness device looks to be at the end of its run. The cross-platform Microsoft Health service is where Microsoft is focusing its efforts.

Band 2 looks to be the end of the line for Microsoft's Band fitness devices -- at least for the short term, and possibly for good. But the Microsoft Health service backing the Band will live on.

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I've been asking around for the past couple of weeks as to the future of the Microsoft Band. This is Microsoft's official statement as of Sept. 13 (via a spokesperson):

"We continue to invest and innovate in the Microsoft Health platform, which is open to all hardware and apps partners across Windows, iOS, and Android devices. We also continue to sell Microsoft Band 2 and remain deeply committed to supporting our customers and exploring the wearables space."

If I'm reading between the lines of that, I'd say there's no Band 3 coming. But Microsoft officials declined to go so far as to say that.

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Contacts told me recently that Microsoft has no plans to release a new Band fitness device this calendar year. I also heard that Microsoft disbanded the group of individuals who were trying to get the Band to run Windows 10 a number of weeks ago. But they weren't certain whether Microsoft might simply release a Band 3 running firmware at some point in the future. The first- and second-generation Band devices run custom firmware, not Windows.

Microsoft has been plagued by quality issues with its Band 2 devices, as the skins on more than a few users' devices have been splitting. (Microsoft may have started fortifying the skins of Band 2 devices to try to address that issue, as noted by Windows Supersite's Rod Trent.)

Microsoft currently is selling the Band 2 for $175, a price cut designed to last until Oct. 16. Microsoft initially unveiled the first-generation Band fitness device on Oct. 29, 2014. It was released in the US the following day for $200. Microsoft launched the second-generation Band 2 device on Oct. 6, 2015. It went on sale in the US starting on Oct. 30 for $250.

The Band 2 included a barometer sensor and other updated ones, including its onboard GPS. Band 2, like Band 1, provided heart-rate monitoring, tracking for running, biking, golfing, cycling, etc., and the ability to work with Windows Phone (though not so well with Windows 10 Mobile, I've heard), Android, and iPhone devices.

Hardware's role at Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella has been as a supporting player. Instead of trying to compete head-to-head with consumer device makers like Apple, Microsoft has focused on its productivity software and services strengths.

The real purpose of the Microsoft Band was to build the user base for a variety of Microsoft services, I've argued. Microsoft Health, the main Microsoft service behind the Band devices, will live on, as Microsoft's statement indicates. Microsoft Health is an Azure service that tracks daily activities, exercise, and sleep quality, and it works across a variety of different phones and devices.

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