Microsoft plans to license its Microsoft Band smartwatch technology to other manufacturers, with an emphasis on the sensors powering them, a company representative said Friday.
Whether Microsoft plans to put in place a formal program, such as it has for Windows Phone, remains unclear. The Band does not run an operating system per se, but on Microsoft's wearable firmware, optimized for low-power micro devices, the spokesman said in an email.
"Yes on licensing the technology. Particularly the sensors, " he said.
Right now, the sensors are one of the selling points behind Microsoft's $199 Band, which unexpectedly launched Wednesday night. Inside the smartwatch/fitness band are ten sensors, including a GPS, accelerometer, microphone, and gyroscope, plus sensors to measure skin capacitance, ultraviolet light, skin temperature, and continuous heart rate. The Band, Microsoft says, not only provides assistance during your workday, with calendar reminders, Twitter updates, the Cortana digital assistant, and the like, but also measures your sleep and exercise routine.
The intelligence that Cortana and a separate Intelligence Engine built into the Band might not make it to other manufacturers. But the Microsoft spokesman said that other smartwatch makers may be able to license the technology, so that the sensor hardware and algorithms that monitor them could appear elsewhere. Whether Microsoft will set up a formal branding initiative--a "Powered by Band" tagline, for example--isn't known. The spokesman said Microsoft will talk more about what it plans to do with Band in the future.
Although it's hard to say how many Bands Microsoft readied before launch, the company's Web site now says it is sold out. Social media accounts owned by Microsoft employees showed long lines at Microsoft stores on Thursday, with customers presumably buying Band. And Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Devices and Studios at Microsoft, tweeted Friday that the company was "looking to scale [Band] to more countries." So far, the Band is being sold only in the United States.
Why this matters: One easy way to establish a platform is to get the supporting technology into as many hands as possible. At this point, it appears Band isn't quite equivalent to Windows Phone--in fact, until the first in-depth reviews are in, it's difficult to say how successful Band will be. But Microsoft's push to make Band work with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone already shows the company is thinking big.