This week Microsoft launched the anticipated replacement for its first smartwatch-like offering and it is like night and day compared its first effort. I actually think the new second generation Microsoft Band 2 is a better solution than the Apple Watch which broke from Steve Jobs model of success that was part of the first iPod launch.
Let’s compare the two offerings.
The iPod really showcased how to define a segment. What made it different was that it focused on doing one thing incredibly well. While others were trying to be little computers, the iPod was initially just good, and it was amazingly good for its time, at music. It was elegant, focused and even though it was far more expensive than the other products in the market, folks saw it as a value and people bought it in numbers that redefined Apple as a consumer electronics company and no longer Apple Computer.
The model was: Keep it simple, keep it focused, use a name that Apple can define, and provide a solution that works.
The problem with the Apple Watch is that it breaks every part of the Steve Jobs model. It isn’t simple and it doesn’t do one thing well. It is kind of like a really tiny iPad that runs apps that often seem to need a far larger screen. It is called a watch but it isn’t like any watch we have ever seen and thus the name works against the product, and because of the complexity it is hard to learn and use.
Yes it gets luxury and the Apple brand is the only tech brand that could possibly carry a product price range that went to 10s of thousands of dollars - but an iPod it isn’t - and it was that model, not the Tiffany model, that made Apple what it is. And, if you think about it, Tiffany couldn’t sell a product like the Apple Watch to save its life. So, I think, it is the wrong model for this product.
Microsoft Band 2
If you look at the new second generation Microsoft Band, you see a focus on exercise. This isn’t designed to be a Windows PC you wear on your wrist but to provide you with the best workout you can get. It has 11 sensors including a barometer so it can measure every part of your workout. Running, riding, exercise machines, it doesn’t matter. This not only measures your workout but also your following rest. The connected app measures what you are burning (carbs or fat), endurance, recovery, and then takes all of this to point you to a better way to exercise. One of the folks who initially presented this to us, who is an avid runner, had never been able to lose weight up until using the new band. After using it he dropped 40 pounds not by working out more, but by working out smarter.
One of the initial examples of this exercise focus is in golf where the band can not only track your effort but your score and the effectiveness of your drives. Connected to ‘Lose It,’ the Band can be used as a far more effective way to manage your diet and even more effectively manage your weight.
You can connect it to personal trainers that can track most forms of exercise and progress. This is a simple focused product that does one thig, activity tracking with a focus on weight loss, extremely well. Even the name is better, it is called a Band not a Watch because the focus isn’t on time it is on something else.
In terms of hardware and going beyond the 11 sensors, this uses liquid metal and Gorilla glass to improve from the first band and is designed to be worn on either the outside or inside of the wrist without looking stupid. This is important because when you are riding something it is far easier to look at the inside of your wrist to see progress than the outside. This flows back to what the band does very well.
Like other smartwatches you can get alerts from your phone - fulfilling the duties of a typical smartwatch. Oh and one thing Apple learned the hard way with the iPad was that success wasn’t just on Apple products. After all, the iPod didn’t really take off until it ran on Windows. The new Microsoft band will eventually work with most smartphones.
It is funny how companies often forget what made then successful. Microsoft, after impressive success with Windows 95, seemed to forget the consumer focus which created that success until Windows 10 when they once again focused on the user. Apple focused on the user with the iPod/iPhone/iPad and took the market. Apple seems to have forgotten the elements that made the iPod so successful in the Apple Watch and Microsoft has taken that old Apple model and applied it to the Microsoft Band. Now we’ll see if it can do a better job of generating excitement around its product than Apple did. It seems simple, if you want an expensive Apple product buy they Apple Watch, if you want to lose weight get the Microsoft Band 2.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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