Microsoft launches Band, its fitness-focused smartwatch and Microsoft Health app

By Aditi Pai
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Microsoft BandMicrosoft has officially launched a fitness-focused smart watch, called Microsoft Band as well as a new health tracking platform, called Microsoft Health. This announcement came just a week after another report leaked about the device.

The product has been in development since 2010 when Microsoft launched the Kinect motion sensor for Xbox, Microsoft explains in a feature post.

Microsoft Band, a small, plastic, black band with a long screen, looks similar to the Nike FuelBand and Samsung Gear Fit. Microsoft explains in its video that the band is meant to be worn either on the inside of the wrist or the outside depending on how its being used.

Microsoft Band offers a 24-hour heart rate monitor that tracks heart rate during exercise to help users understand how many calories they've burned, but also during sleep to understand sleep patterns. The smartwatch includes a built-in GPS, making it more similar to Fitbit's new smartwatch, Surge, and less like the Apple Watch, which only tracks GPS through its connection to the user's iPhone. 

The device's battery life is expected to last 48 hours, although using the GPS-enabled features will shorten it.

Microsoft Band also tracks steps, calories, additional sleep data, and interestingly, the watch offers a UV monitor so users can keep track of the UV index when they are out in the sun. The smartwatch's other features include call notifications, calendar alerts, a timer and alarm, and -- if users have Windows 8.1 on their smartphone -- access to Microsoft's intelligent assistant, Cortana. Through Microsoft Band, Cortana can take notes, set reminders, give driving directions, and provide traffic, sports, stocks, and weather updates. Although Microsoft doesn't offer a grand digital payment program, like Apple does, Microsoft users can connect the Starbucks app to their Microsoft Band and pay for beverages and food at Starbucks from their wrist.

All of the data from Microsoft Band will be sent to Microsoft Health, a cloud-based platform that connects to Microsoft's new app, also called Microsoft Health. Other fitness apps that connect to Microsoft Health so far include Jawbone, Gold's Gym, Runkeeper, Under Armour's MapMyFitness, and MyFitnessPal. The new Microsoft Health app syncs to Microsoft HealthVault as well, which brings in data from other health trackers like blood glucose monitors, electronic scales, and activity and medical monitors.

The device is available starting today on Microsoft's website and in the company's brick-and-mortar store locations for $199.