Wearables may be gaining traction in global markets, especially in Australia, but it's a cut-throat business. Case in point: the Microsoft Band is no more. Despite investing millions into establishing the wearables line, Microsoft has confirmed it will not be releasing a Band 3 this year. The company has also been trying to get rid of remaining stock of the Microsoft Band 2. We take a look at the Microsoft Band's rocky history that led to its ultimate demise.
The Microsoft Band is essentially a fitness tracker that integrates with Windows Phone, iOS and Android smartphones using a Bluetooth connection. It wasn't quite a smartwatch but was more advanced than some of the fitness trackers on the market at the time since it was able to be used with Cortana, Microsoft's AI digital assistant. Microsoft also had a vision to cultivate a vibrant developer ecosystem to create apps for the wearable.
This week, it has been revealed that Microsoft is killing off the Band product line. It has even removed the Band software development kit (SDK) from its website.
The first iteration of the Band was released in late 2014 and was a surprise hit with consumers in the US and UK. It sold out online and the Microsoft Store was chronically out of stock of the Band. While some speculated that Microsoft deliberately limited the supply of the Band to make it look more popular than it actually was, Microsoft pushed out the Band 2 the following year.
Microsoft Band 2 brought in a number of new features that made it an even more impressive fitness tracker. Cortana integration was improved and the Band 2 could even estimate your VO2 Max, that is your body's maximum capacity to use oxygen, which is an important number to know for those who are participating in intensely aerobic sports. It is something that is often measured using specialist equipment.
The Band 2's $379 price tag sure was hefty and even with some newfangled features, it was slammed by critics for being too pricey. Criticism revolved around the fact that it costs significantly more than the first Band (which was never available in Australia), that it was uncomfortable to wear, had a short battery life and required a proprietary charger, which was one of the gripes listed in Lifehacker Australia's review of the Microsoft Band 2.
PC World's Mark Hachman went as far as to call the Microsoft Band "the Microsoft Zune of wearables: a proudly specialised device that hasn't yet realised it's on the wrong side of history."
Looks like Microsoft has indeed recognised this and has cut its losses by canning the Band. It will not be releasing a Band 3 this year and has been trying to sell of its remaining Band 2 stock. According to a Microsoft statement obtained by ZDNet:
"We have sold through our existing Band 2 inventory and have no plans to release another Band device this year. We remain committed to supporting our Microsoft Band 2 customers through Microsoft Stores and our customer support channels and will continue to invest in the Microsoft Health platform, which is open to all hardware and apps partners across Windows, iOS, and Android devices."
The problem is there are simply too many competitors in the market with products that perform similar functions as the Band but at a lower price. For the Band to succeed, Microsoft needed to blow all the competition out of the water with something spectacular, and it failed to do so with the Band 2.
As Paul Thurrott, long time reporter on all things Microsoft, noted:
"[T]he problems with Microsoft Band are, and were, many. Both generations of the product have suffered from endemic reliability issues, a problem that seems to dog most Microsoft hardware products, and few third parties ever supported the Band or the back-end Microsoft Health service."
Are you sad to see the Microsoft Band go? Let us know in the comments.