Microsoft stakes claim on smartwatches with Band SDK

Competing with Apple and Google, Microsoft hopes developers can create apps that give the Band platform an edge

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft faces a tall order in competing with Apple and Google on smartwatches. But with its developer preview SDK for the Microsoft Band, the company looks to entice developers to build customized scenarios for the platform.

Made available earlier this week, the preview SDK supports developing applications for Windows Phone and Google Android; Apple iOS support is coming soon. The Microsoft Band device, powered by the Microsoft Health cloud-based personal fitness service, tracks health data, such as heart rate, while also providing email previews and calendar alerts.

Microsoft must compete with the Apple Watch and Google's Android Wear, but an analyst sees an opportunity for Microsoft to make headway into enterprise businesses, even with the current consumer bent of Band. "The fledgling smartwatch market is still up for grabs, and Microsoft has an opportunity to get a meaningful portion of it, especially if it offers compatibility with iOS and Android phones," says analyst Rob Sanfilippo, of Directions on Microsoft. "The current suite of capabilities of the Band will have limited appeal to enterprises, but opening the platform with the SDK could spark new innovation targeting specific organizational needs, such as location-tracking and recording and analysis of other sensor readings delivered through the Band."

Developers using the SDK can build applications that extend to users' wrists. "Create an app that can send UI content to the band, keeping users engaged when they're in motion," the Microsoft Band website says. "Your app can also receive data directly from the band sensors, giving your users more reasons to interact with it." Apps could be monetized via customization through such efforts as allowing users to change the color theme or wallpaper, Microsoft says.

The company updated its Band and Health platforms this week, adding a Web dashboard, biking functionality, and new ways to scan and respond to incoming notifications. It also features integration with Microsoft’s HealthVault personal health information site and the MapMyFitness personal fitness tracker. Users of Windows Phone 8.1 can use a virtual keyboard or voice to reply to messages.