The year 2014 literally seems to belong to smartwatches and smart bands and tech giant Microsoft Corporation (ADR) (NASDAQ:MSFT) is no mood to miss the bus under the leadership of its new CEO. All the tech big-wigs like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd (KRX:005930), LG Electronics (KRX:066570), Motorola, Fitbit are taking a shot in the field, though some companies already have a device to boast. The speculations surrounding Apple iWatch haven’t ceased and people are still trying to get hold of the recently launched LG G Watch at Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) I/O Conference when rumours surrounding Microsoft smartband have started to surface. Rumors making the round claim that Microsoft Smartband could debut in October this year, hitting projected iWatch market considerably.
The Microsoft smartband is likely to have a 1.5-inch display in variety of colors. In addition to that, the smartband boasts of features that are unheard of in the industry. It is rumoured to carry cross-platform compatible, i.e. it will work on multiple platform such as Android, Windows and iOS. Furthermore, the 11-sensors smartband is expected to include high-performing chips from TI and Atmel to keep the power consumption low, resulting in longer battery life. The screen of the band will be on the inner side of wrist giving a more protected display.
Why is Microsoft Entering the Wearable Market with Smartband?
The smartbands have been around for quite some time and their fad is unlikely to be washed by smartwatches, on the basic functionality they might appear same though. Both the wearable devices are aspired gadgets for health and fitness fanatics as it can track the user’s vital data, but the smartwatches have gone a step ahead as it can be used for making or receiving calls and browsing web on the tiny screen.
In this rapidly changing world, with fast-emerging technologies, consumers do not hold on to their devices for long. Since the devices are discarded once a new technology comes into scene, investing a huge amount of money on such devices does not seem a wise move. In a recently conducted survey, users shied away from the iWatch which is yet to be launched, but the same users are willing to go for iWatch if it is price tagged with $200 or low. Smartband offers basic functionalities though, it’s cheaper than a smartwatch. Moreover, after the launch of Android Wear and 2 smartwatches at the GoogleI/O Conference, more vendors are likely to venture into the smartwatch market, resulting in more competition and may trigger a price-war. With the upcoming smartband Microsoft is aiming to leverage the two factors; price and cross-compatible, thereby answering to many questions.
But Microsoft smart band strategy is not limited to Apple iWatch alone, on the larger prospective the company is also trying to counter Google’s strategy for smartwatch industry. Google Android Wear is a highly optimised OS especially designed and developed for smartwatch, the company is trying to empower all smartwatch vendors to introduce a smartwatch powered with Android Wear. By making its smart band compatible with all OS, Microsoft is aiming at potential market of Google Wear.
However, Microsoft is not limited only to smartband to penetrate wearable market; the company is reportedly working on a sensor-rich smartwatch backed with 2-days long battery. However, in the wake of Microsoft smartband information, it’s difficult to say whether the company is focused on making a device satisfying smartwatch industry or smartband.
The Smartband Market
The smartbands have been around for sometime but the market is not saturated. There is ample of room for growth and development. Launching a cross-platform compatible smartband seems to be a clever move on part of Microsoft. The vendors that have made big in the smartband industry include Fitbit, Samsung, Pebble and Jawbone. Pebble Technology accounted for more than one-third smartband market in Q1 2014, followed by Sony & Samsung. In the basic band segment, Fitbit was the clear leader followed by Jawbone and Nike in H2 2013.
Though there is an opportunity-window for Microsoft, there is a flip side too. While the major companies are targeting the smartwatch industry, we might witness the influx of some other vendors too. The increasing competition is likely to decrease the cost of smartwatch in the upcoming years thus proving smartbands a bad move for Microsoft. However, it is quite early to predict the outcomes and results but the changes in the market will be interesting to watch after the launch of iWatch and Microsoft band.