Microsoft's strange foray into wearables may be at an end. Mary Jo Foley was tipped off that theBand 2 has been pulled from Microsoft's online store, and the company gave her a statement :
We have sold through our existing Band 2 inventory and have no plans to release another Band device this year. We remain committed to supporting our Microsoft Band 2 customers through Microsoft Stores and our customer support channels and will continue to invest in the Microsoft Health platform, which is open to all hardware and apps partners across Windows, iOS, and Android devices.
Not only is the Band 2 dropping out of the sales channel, its SDK has also been removed . Reports continue that the team developing the Band has been... well... disbanded. Oddly, the company previously told Foley that it's still "exploring" the wearables market, though what form this exploration will take is, as yet, unclear.
The entire Band project was peculiar. Thefirst Band, released in 2014, was a surprisingly credible first effort at a fitness wearable: Microsoft has a reputation for never nailing the first release of any product (received wisdom being "wait for version 3"), but the Band was a bit better than that. The Band packed in a multitude of sensors and functionality, as well as reasonable software and a range of cloud services. It worked with the iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone.
The problem is, the Band never quite went beyond credible; it was substantially less capable than a true smartwatch, but somewhat more expensive than other fitness devices. It wasn't waterproof, and it wasn't always comfortable. The Band 2 didn't alter this, either. It added more sensing capabilities, but still occupied a weird middle ground of being too expensive compared to other fitness trackers and too underpowered relative to smartwatches.
The Band was never destined to be a big seller, either. Microsoft had vague desires to gather data for its health platform and cloud services, though you don't technically have to use the Band to do this, as the company has an API and a limited number of third party integrations. Microsoft's broad ambitions are unclear.
If the company truly wants a huge amount of data, it needs a product that's successful, or it needs to integrate with someone else's successful product. Neither of these things has happened. By apparently withdrawing from the health wearable market entirely, it's hard to imagine that ever changing.
The result is that the entire Band feels Zune-like. Microsoft was late to the market with a product that was competent and felt like it held some promise, but the company never delivered on the Band's potential. The Zune was part of a dying category—the standalone media player being substantially replaced by the smartphone—and while the fitness band may have a little more life to it, eventual replacement by true smartwatches (or, for those with lesser demands, the smartphone) feels like a likely outcome. And this isn't a good look for Microsoft. It looks like a pattern is forming: come to the market too late, produce a product that fails for whatever reason to be unambiguously better than those that are already there, and then awkwardly leave the market having not made much of a dent.