Microsoft Jumps Into The Wearables Bandwagon

by CXOtoday News Desk    May 30, 2014


Microsoft is preparing to plunge into the wearable computing, which until now has been dominated by Samsung, Google and Apple. According to a recent Forbes report, the tech giant plans to offer a sensor-rich smartwatch that measures heart rate and synchs with iPhones, Android phones and Windows Phones.

The report cites multiple sources with knowledge of the company’s plans, and stated that the device will draw on optical engineering expertise from Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect division to continuously measure heart rate through the day and night, while the battery will last for two days, roughly on par with Samsung’s Gear Fit.

Although it could not mention the timeline for the watch’s release but hinted that Microsoft could make the announcement anytime this summer.

Read: Smart wearable devices to become an enterprise reality

Last month, market research firm IDC predicted sales of wearable tech items would triple this year to 19 million units worldwide, growing to 111.9 million by 2018. IDC notes that the wearable sector is still led by fitness trackers. “The increased buzz has prompted more vendors to announce their intentions to enter this market,” IDC research manager Ramon Llamas said in the statement and adds that likewise users are also finding these devices appealing owing to their design simplicity and ease of use.

Challenges ahead?

Big technology firms are gearing up to get into the wearables, creating greater competition in this segment. Apple is set to announce its first iWatch later this year and Samsung expected to launch a smartwatch in the summer that can independently make calls. Wearable device companies like Fitbit are Jawbone are meanwhile commanding valuations in the billions of dollars, with Jawbone having recently become the subject of acquisition rumors.

Meanwhile, Google opened its Glass “explorer” program to anyone in the US with $1,500 to spend on the Internet-connected eyewear and Samsung too recently revealed details on its open biometric data platform SAMI, which developers can access to correlate data from wearable devices like the Gear, Fitbit and Jawbone.

Some in the industry believes this could be challenging for Microsoft as it debuts the wearable market and may hit its bottomline for some time, but it is also true that the market is nascent and this is the right opportunity to be in this space now.

Analysts believe companies such as Apple and Microsoft may take smartwatches and other wearable one step ahead from current fitness trackers like the Gear Fit, which requires users to turn on its heart-rate monitor. The Forbes report highlights while Microsoft was rumored to be working on a wearable fitness accessory that tied with the Kinect Play Fit service, codenamed Joule, in March the company reportedly spent $150 million on IP-related patents for headsets and a watch-like device from the Osterhout Design Group.

At present the company is working on a device worn on the wrist, and one that’s aimed at a much wider market: any fitness enthusiast with a smartphone, not just a device that works with the Kinect or Windows, says the report.

Analysts also believe that a cross-platform smartwatch would represent another bold move by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to create a product that works across other rival platforms, not just Windows. All these may give an extra edge to the company as it plans to bring out its first wearable device in the market.