Microsoft outsmarts Apple Watch

Microsoft outsmarts Apple Watch

By: Matt Krantz March 17, 2015 9:00 am   

Microsoft (MSFT) is ramping up production and distribution of its Band smartwatch — capitalizing on the popularity of the device before Apple (AAPL) has shipped a single watch, the company announced Tuesday.

Production of the Microsoft Band, a $200 fitness wearable that also functions as a streamlined smartwatch, will be boosted as the device will now be sold at retailers Best Buy, and Target. Previously, the Band was available only at Microsoft’s stores and at in limited quantities. The Band will also be sold in the United Kingdom.

The aggressive expansion of the Band comes a month before the Apple Watch is expected to be shipped. And while consumers don’t appear to be excited about the Apple Watch, the Band has been an unexpected hit for Microsoft. Microsoft hasn’t disclosed sales numbers, but the product has been constantly out of stock in Microsoft Stores and available only for consumers who put their names on wait lists. Apple’s stock faltered after showing its watch last week.

In some ways, Apple is executing like the old and dominant Microsoft and Microsoft is executing as the resurgent Apple in the smartwatch race. The Microsoft Band is highly focused on core tasks and is understated — giving it performance advantages in key areas, namely battery life. The Band works with all major smartphone operating systems, including those running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android in addition to Microsoft’s Windows. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch is attempting to be the technology jack-of-all-trades of smartwatches — making big trade-offs in exchange, namely battery life. And the Apple Watch is closed and proprietary — working only with Apple’s smartphones.

The Apple Watch is expected to last only 18 hours between charges, yet the Band can go roughly two days on a single charge. The Band can handle health and sleep tracking, such as heart rate monitoring, but has critical smartwatch functionality, including the ability to send and receive text messages, check stock prices and pay wirelessly at Starbucks. And the Band sells for $200, until the arrival of the Apple Watch, which will start at $350 for the lowest-end model.

It’s a major reversal in strategies. This time, it’s Microsoft that has announced a product, made it immediately available and then boosted production and availability. The ramp-up in distribution of the Band comes five months after Microsoft launched the wearable last October — beating the Apple Watch to market. The Apple Watch, shown months ago, won’t ship until April.

How time flies.


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