Smart wearables continue to flop: Microsoft abandons the Band

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Smart watches never really took off in the way manufacturers hoped, with sales only in the millions rather then tens or hundreds (of millions). I've tried them all at various stages and they're all now sitting in drawers or returned as adding little to the daily experience other than extra hassle in getting things working and being kept charged up. The most successful wearable by a long way has been the Fitbit, and that's because it's tiny, lightweight and zero friction in terms of use. And now we have a trusted report that Microsoft is giving up on the Band (and Band 2) and indeed on the whole idea of a first party wearable.

I found elements that I liked in the Band 2, reviewed here, but it was still nowhere near a 'must wear'. Add in durability issues - mine was fine (partly because I hardly ever wore it), but serious users found that the tough and flexible sides weren't so 'tough and flexible' after all and that cracks could appear.

A Band 3 was rumoured for late this year or early next year, but I'd be very surprised if this happened, not least because some of the manpower needed for it has already been dispersed within Microsoft.

ZDNet reports:


The latest evidence: the company has removed all references to its Band devices from its Microsoft Store listing online.

A tipster who asked not to be named showed me a cached version of the Microsoft Online Store listing from Oct. 2, which included Band devices; today, Oct. 3, references to the Band devices are gone from the company's store sites.

Microsoft also removed the Band software development kit (SDK) today, which isn't surprising given it's no longer selling Band 2 devices.

Microsoft is believed to have disbanded the software team that was looking to bring Windows 10 to the Band a couple months ago. I've received various tips that at least some of the Band hardware team members have dispersed, too, with some moving to other Microsoft hardware teams inside the company.

Even though sources of mine have said Microsoft is planning to phase out its fitness band devices and has no plans to roll out a Band 3 device any time soon (or likely, ever), company officials still haven't completely conceded that it's the end of the line for Band.

I asked again today and have yet to get an updated statement from the company regarding when and why Band devices were removed from Microsoft's online stores. A spokesperson sent me the following statement:

"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."

So - interesting and not totally unexpected. We recently had the (cosmetic) rebrand of the Microsoft Health app name to just 'Microsoft Band', freeing up the former name for wider uses, probably across multiple platforms, after a suitable mourning period for the original ambitions.

The likes of the Apple Watch may be popular in hipster circles in the city and Android Wear may be popular in uber-geek circles, but ask the regular man or woman in the street what works for them and it'll be something super-light and unobtrusive that they only have to charge once a week. (The Band and Band 2 were neither light nor unobtrusive!)

More data points welcome, of course, am I too cynical about wearables?

Source / Credit: ZDNet