Looks like this is a Microsoft week. The Redmond company just revealed the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health. I must confess the strategy makes more sense than I expected it to.
Microsoft isn’t competing with Android Wear or Apple Watch as much as it is with Google Fit and Apple Health Kit. The latter along with Microsoft Health are cloud platforms to make life easier for developers of health products and services. An operating system for health if you will. This benefits the consumer too as data is able to follow her no matter what device or operating system she uses.
For example, I might have regular walking data on my iPhone or Moto X; data from the day I played tennis with my Fitbit, without my phone; data from when I played golf with my LG G Watch. Right now, all that data is siloed — there is no one central place to collect and analyze everything. Obviously, that sucks. Google Fit and Apple Health Kit are meant to be a solution but only works for Android devices and Apple devices respectively.
Microsoft’s pitch is that it will be multi-platform so customers and developers don’t have to worry about whether it’s Apple, Android or Windows — their data will continue to be gathered in one place.
It could work.
It will also mostly be a battle behind closed doors — about who can cultivate the best ecosystem of partners. Not just developers, but also hospitals, doctors, gyms, athletes, etc.; really, anyone working in the health industry who might be needed in the pursuit of new, killer applications.
Ironically, the more successful Apple is the more valuable Microsoft’s cross-platform strategy will be. Microsoft’s real competition is Android becoming so dominant that a cross-platform solution isn’t needed.
The device itself is less important. The Microsoft Band is like the Google Nexus in that it’s a reference gadget to show off Microsoft Health. In summary, it’s the most capable fitness tracker you can buy today.
The other interesting part is Microsoft’s positioning for the Microsoft Band. It’s not competing with smart watches; it’s the device you wear on your right wrist. That’s clever marketing. It keeps the focus on the Band as a health device and will appeal to people who prefer to wear normal watches but want the advantages of a smart wearable device.
Or even to people who wear smartwatches: the Moto 360 for example might look great but it’s lousy for sports.
If Microsoft Health fulfils its promise, I can see myself wearing my Moto 360 one day and my IWC Big Pilot the next; all the time with the Microsoft Band on my right wrist.
But it’s really about Microsoft Health. It’s about a platform that cuts across operating systems and devices; similar to what Microsoft is doing with Office 365.