The rumors were right: Microsoft did have a smartwatch in the pipeline for the holiday season. Curiously, though, the new Microsoft Band isn't an everything-but-the-kitchen sink device like its Android Wear and Apple Watch counterparts. Rather, the Band seems to be aimed squarely at fitness nuts.
Microsoft's announcement describes the device as a "smart band designed to be worn 24 hours a day by people who are active both in the gym and on the job." The Microsoft Band includes 10 smart sensors, which allow it to track the user's heart rate continuously as well as monitor sleep quality, calories burned, the outdoor UV index, and more. A GPS is also built in, and there's even a "Guided Workouts" feature "curated by Gold’s Gym, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness."
In addition to the fitness-centric features, the Microsoft Band can perform some of the same duties as more generic smartwatches. It can notify users about new calls, e-mails, texts, and "social updates." The Microsoft Band can also be controlled with the same Cortana speech-recognizing assistant that debuted in Windows Phone 8.1 this summer.
Under the hood, the device packs a microcontroller based on the ARM Cortex-M4 (the predecessor to the new Cortex-M7) as well as 64MB of storage and a lithium-ion battery rated for 48 hours of "normal use."
You can order the Microsoft Band right now from the Microsoft Store. The device costs $199 and is available in "limited quantities" in three sizes: small, medium, and large. (Microsoft has a handy sizing guide to help you pick the right model.) The Microsoft Band relies on the new Microsoft Health platform, which includes a cloud service for fitness data as well as a new app that's available today for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.