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Redmond Exec Defends Against Criticism of Microsoft Band

As the annual Consumer Electronics Show kicks off today in Las Vegas, you can expect to hear lots of buzz about driverless cars, home automation systems, the so-called "Internet of Things" and of course wearable computing devices (including smartwatches and fitness bands).

Having spent most of December using the new Microsoft Band, as I reported last month,  it has some nice features but it's still buggy and, in my opinion, not worth the steep $199 price tag. When I returned my Microsoft Band, the clerk asked why. I mentioned the buggy Bluetooth synchronization with iOS, which she admitted is a common problem with the Microsoft Band. It was also a problem CNBC On-Air Editor Jon Fortt emphasized while interviewing Matt Barlow, Microsoft's general manager of new devices.

"I'm sorry to hear about the challenges you're running into, but a bunch of other people using those devices are having a great time being fit with Microsoft Band," Barlow responded. Not letting Barlow off the hook, Fortt told Barlow that Microsoft has already acknowledged the Bluetooth connectivity issues with iOS. "With any types of new product rollout, you're going to have updates that need to occur with software," Barlow responded. "We're updating software and we're updating usability, so I'm definitely convinced that [we're] seeing people using the Microsoft Band with all phone types without any issues moving forward."

Barlow went on to tout the unique 24-hour heart-tracking capability of the Microsoft Band, along with its on-board GPS, guided workouts and e-mail, text and Facebook integration.  "People are really looking for value, and when I think about what we have with the Microsoft Band ... at a $199 price point, [it] is certainly magical," he argued.

Clearly it is the early days for wearable devices and it remains to be seen if they will take off.  For its part, Microsoft has only offered its band through its retail stores, further limiting their presence. One could argue that many are waiting for the Apple Watch, due out this quarter, but at a starting price of $349, it's not likely they'll be flying off the shelves either. Results of a survey by Piper Jaffray confirmed that.

Not that its earlier surveys showed pent-up demand either, but now only 7 percent of 968 iPhone users surveyed said they intend to purchase an Apple Watch, down from 8 percent back in September when it was introduced and 10 percent in September 2013.

"We believe that the muted response to the Watch is due to consumer questions including what is the killer feature of the watch?," wrote Gene Munster,  senior analyst and known Apple bull, in a Dec. 21 research note. People also want to know, "what applications will be available for the watch? We believe that as we get closer to launch [this] year, Apple will answer many of these questions and demand will increase; however, we still believe expectations for the first year of the watch should remain conservative."

Do you use a wearable such as the Apple Watch, the Microsoft Band, or another item that come from a plethora of other players offering similar devices?


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/05/2015 at 12:25 PM


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