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Microsoft to announce wearable cross-platform device

MobilityMicrosoft Building

New details continue to emerge for Microsoft’s first modern wearable device to be unveiled in upcoming weeks, with the latest reports suggesting the accessory is more akin to a fitness band than a smart watch.

Microsoft’s new “Mobile Wireless Device” will come in small, medium, and large sizes, most likely to accommodate different wrists, according to radio test reports on the United States Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Web site last week.

Meanwhile, “the radio circuitry is the same on all three configurations,” the FCC filing said and will feature Bluetooth Low Energy technology.

Rumours have swirled back and forth between the product being either a fitness band with specific functions or a smart watch that can run third party apps and could compete with the likes of Apple Watch.  While the FCC filing revealed no new information on this front, latest reports indicate that the device will be a wrist band with a full colour display more in line with the Samsung Gear Fit.

According to Krista Napier, manager for mobility at IDC Canada, the time is right for Microsoft to enter the market.

“The wearables market is still in its infancy, with a variety of products and form factors emerging, and more are likely to come,” she said in an email. “There is still room for big brand competitors in this market as there is no clear winner in the market just yet.”

However, at least in Canada, Microsoft will be facing the same challenges to mainstream adoption of wearables as other manufacturers.  Key hurdles that Napier identified include battery power, price points, the variety of useful apps, their overall aesthetics, social acceptance, and security and privacy concerns.

“Changing attitude and perception is not easy…and it’s a challenge that all brands in the market will have to deal with,” said Napier.

At least on paper, Microsoft seems to be addressing some of the issues found in existing products.  A recent Forbes report claims that the device will have a battery life of two full days, or double of that of the competition, and will sync with iPhones, Android devices and Windows Phones.

These features are novel compared to heart rate monitoring capabilities, which are now a staple in the fitness band ecosystem.  To date, wristbands have dominated the wearables market due to their lower price points and clearer uses, according to Napier.

While it seems likely Microsoft will aim to target the holiday season, the company has yet to reveal and promote the device.

“OEMs and other players in the market need to clearly articulate the value compared to other devices a customer may already own to help justify the purchase,” Napier said. “Creating devices that are not just pieces of technology, but attractive fashionable accessories that are considered ‘cool’ and clearly add value will be important to achieving adoption.”