Microsoft fitness band rumour: Another way to sell services to Android users?

Summary:If Microsoft is working on an Android and iOS friendly fitness band, it would fit neatly into its new strategy of promoting its services even when it can't sell you Windows.

Is Microsoft about to join the fitness band stampede? According to a report by Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott, this autumn the company will release a Samsung Gear Fit-like fitness band that will "display smartphone-based notifications". There's one thing that may set it apart from the herd, however: rather than just working with Windows Phone, according to Thurrott, the band will work with Android and iOS.

It's not surprising that Microsoft is looking at the wearables market — Google has certainly been pushing forward its Android Wear strategy recently , with LG, Samsung, and Motorola among the companies building devices based on the Google wearables platform.

Having a device that works across operating systems would be in line with Microsoft's new willingness to experiment (such as the Nokia X range of Android devices ) with promoting its services even when it's not selling you Windows. As such, like the Nokia X, the strategy behind a Microsoft fitness band could be to encourage takeup of Microsoft's other services such as Bing Health or Outlook.

At best, however, wearables is a nascent device category. Indeed, you could argue that the entire smartwatches industry was created largely by tech companies worried that Apple might at some point launch its own smartwatch and hoping to get into the market before Cupertino arrived to dominate it.

Terrified of being caught out by Apple again (as they were over smartphones and tablets), its rivals have produced a number of different smartwatches and fitness bands in a desperate bid to get a headstart this time around. However, all these new products have been met with indifference by the majority of consumers.

And, of course, Apple is still yet to release anything you can wear on your wrist (well, not since this), and it's really not clear that there's enough of an audience for these gadgets beyond fitness enthusiasts.

It's also worth remembering that Microsoft has been here before. Back in the mid-2000s,  Microsoft's SPOT watches delivered information to wearers via FM radio signals which could be picked up in around 100 US cities (plus some in Canada), through an antenna built into the watchstrap. The watches were not a huge success.

Further reading

Topics: Mobility, Android, iOS, Microsoft, Windows

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic, and has been writing about technology, business and culture for more than a decade. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.

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