Wearable fitness devices are all the rage these days, and Microsoft has been making deals to ensure its place in the market. Mark Kaelin explains.
One of the most dominant and lucrative cultural and generational trends in the past few years has been the increased use of wearable devices to track activity and overall fitness. Not one to pass on a money-making opportunity, Microsoft has recently signed deals with Fitbit and TaylorMade to integrate data from wearable gadgets and services directly into Windows 10 and the Microsoft ecosystem.
In August 2015, Fitbit announced a new Universal Windows App for Windows 10. This is significant because, as a universal app, the Windows 10 Fitbit app can be used across all Windows 10 devices. In other words, whatever information your Fitbit device gathers can be displayed on your smartphone, tablet, or PC using a single app with a single interface.
For Microsoft, this is a prime example of the Universal App Platform for Windows 10 and its potential for third-party application development moving forward. For example, the Fitbit app takes advantage of Windows 10 live tiles, better syncing between devices with Bluetooth, and Cortana for speaking commands on the go.
In a separate August press release, Microsoft announced that its own fitness tracking wearable, Microsoft Band, is now fully compatible with myRoundPro (Figure A). Developed by TalyorMade, the myRoundPro app is designed to enhance the golf experience for players by tracking their swings, scores, and other stats.
Microsoft Band with myRoundPro.
For an avid golfer, the combination of the two is compelling. Golfers can use the myRoundPro app to find a course and set up a tee time, then use the app and GPS to map each hole and provide yardage information in real time. The Microsoft Band will keep track of your steps, heart rate, and the calories expended while myRoundPro records all of the golf information.
Searching through the free apps that come with Windows 10, you may have noticed one called Health & Fitness. This app is sort of the poor man's version of a wearable fitness device. The problem is that there is no wearable gadget collecting data, so all of the data for this app has to be entered manually, which makes it practically useless for most users. As far as I can tell, the Health & Fitness app does not integrate with Microsoft Band (Figure B), which I think is an oversight on Microsoft's part.
The Health & Fitness app does not integrate with Microsoft Band.
However, Microsoft does offer a cloud-based service called Microsoft Health that integrates with the Microsoft Band wearable. In fact, Microsoft Health integrates with several third-party wearables, like RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal, for example. If you're serious about tracking your health and fitness, forget about the Windows 10 Health & Fitness app and concentrate on the Microsoft Health cloud service.
There's no doubt about it—the technology surrounding fitness and health is big business. Millions of people are using wearable devices like Fitbit and Microsoft Band to track their physical activity and improve their overall health. It's a cultural trend that Microsoft cannot, and should not, ignore. By partnering with Fitbit and TayorMade, among others, Microsoft can offer an integrated health and fitness service that matches or surpasses much of the competition.
Personally, after I graduated from college, I lost interest in exercising for the sake of exercising. And the idea of tracking steps and calories and whatever else has never appealed to me. What about you? Do you have a wearable fitness gadget? Has it made you fitter or healthier or just obsessive compulsive? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.