End of Band

The Microsoft Band 2 will be the last of its kind. A post mortem.

It is not easy these days to excite people about technology. Every day there is a new gadget. In the past Microsoft had some unforgotten moments. The XBOX360 for instance was such a device. It got even more attention when the Kinect was released - true innovation coming from Microsoft.

When the Microsoft Band was launched everyone was thrilled. A lot of sensors in such a tiny device. A lot of useful applications. A totally unexpected move from Microsoft. When I visited the states shortly after its debut it was sold out in all Microsoft stores. In the malls and on campus - nothing to gather!

Luckily, the original Microsoft Band was a typical gen-1 product. It was not very pleasing to wear correctly. It had technical difficulties. It was not even proven to be that accurate. Still, Microsoft fanboys and tech enthusiast found it very appealing. Personally, after I was not fortunate to get one during my visit in Redmond I did not care any longer.

That changed when the Microsoft Band 2 was released. It improved a lot of the issues of the first Band. It featured a curved screen to make wearing it a more pleasant experience. It also had a barometer and could cope with a lot more activities. The pedometer accuracy was drastically improved. It's design seemed more polish and way more elegant.

Here is where the trouble starts. The Band 2 could have been another great hit. But, while the first one gained some momentum by surprising everyone, the second one was released as an established product. Without any marketing it is impossible to have excellent sales. Here Microsoft did a lot of things completely wrong.

First, they (for some unknown reasons) did not make a world-wide roll out. Alright, the world is big enough, but at least in the 10-15 largest economies you'll find the Band 2, right? Nope. Second, the Band 2 wasn't particularly marketed as something you would want to wear every day. There are not many people on this planet who would buy such a device just for playing golf. Instead, most people playing golf would actually prefer to wear their Breitling or Rolex watches.

I imported the Band 2 from the UK (where it was also published with a significant delay as compared to the states). Thanks to Amazon the delivery was no problem and I did not pay much more as if it would have been a domestic purchase. Even though I prefer the English language anyway, one would have been able to change the region / language to German. Apparently Germany was already supported - even though the device was not sold here... The question is: Who pays for such things? Someone decides: Yes, let's just localize - we don't care what's happening with sales.

Clearly, the Microsoft Band 2 failed in several areas. It did not appear to be a game changer for wearables. Alright, wearables are a difficult sector, which may be highly profitable one day. But that day is still in the (near) future. Furthermore, it was no competition for the Apple Watch (but look at the money Apple spent on marketing there - its a 50:1 ratio I would guess; + a world-wide roll out as you know it from Apple). Finally, Microsoft did not show a solid, streamlined, and dead serious strategy on the mobile market: Why should one expect such a strategy with wearables?

My conclusion is that it was not the Band 2 that failed. It was Microsoft. The Band 2 may fail too often and may cost too much (or generate not enough revenue in total), but Microsoft's lack of commitment in any sector is striking. That's not the same Microsoft that did everything to take control of the console market... but maybe it's just some innovation that's missing.

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