Microsoft Reveals Its Band Fitness Tracker

The latest entry into the fitness wearables market -- the $199 Microsoft Band -- is now on sale, both online and at Microsoft Stores. Upon announcing its new fitness-tracking wristband Wednesday, Microsoft also unveiled its Health platform, a cloud-based service for managing and analyzing health- and fitness-related data from wearables and other devices and services.

It's unusual for Microsoft to announce a new product that is immediately available for purchase. However, the move stands to give a boost to Microsoft's position in the wearables market ahead of the planned launch of the Apple Watch in early 2015.

At $199, the Microsoft Band is also considerably cheaper than the coming Apple Watch, with a planned starting price of $349. Unlike Apple's device, Microsoft's wearable is compatible with Windows, Android and iOS devices.

GPS, Heart-Rate and UV Sensors

An elastic plastic band with an adjustable clasp, the Microsoft Band is meant to be wearable around the clock and runs for two days on a single charge, according to the device's spec sheet. Its 10 built-in sensors include a GPS, an optical heart-rate sensor, a microphone, a gyrometer and an ambient light sensor.

Microsoft says the Band will let users better understand their daily calorie burns and sleep patterns, monitor their step and running distances, set daily fitness goals and receive exercise prompts and guided workouts from fitness partners such as Gold's Gym, Shape and Men's Fitness.

In addition to the fitness-related apps, the Microsoft Band provides the Cortana digital assistant, wrist-based text messaging, e-mail monitoring, and weather and financial updates. Wearers can also set the device to operate on watch mode for a continuous date and time display, and can use the band to make quick, credit-card and cash-free purchases at Starbucks.

Health with Big Data, Machine Learning

Data from the Microsoft Band can be stored...

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