Microsoft Band and Health Dashboard Kill-Off Suggests Platform IoT Focus

Last week, Microsoft announced that it is shuttering Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health Dashboard apps and services effective May 31. Band users will be able to export their data before that date, and some active users will be eligible to receive a refund for their troubles.

Band, the company's fitness tracker, was discontinued in October 2016 as competitors such as Fitbit flourished, but the software giant supported users of the device by continuing to operate the associated cloud-based apps and services. Those apps and services allowed users to, among other things, track their activity and monitor health-related metrics such as heart rate.

Microsoft's decision not to launch another wearable device to replace the Band, and to kill off these apps, suggests that Microsoft's strategy for the mobile and internet of things (IoT) markets will be more focused on providing enterprise platform services than it will be focused on building devices and services for end users.

Specifically, it hints that Microsoft's mobile and IoT efforts are coalescing around Azure, its cloud computing platform.

Azure promises enterprises that they can "bring IoT to any device and any platform, without changing...infrastructure." Azure offers a number of IoT services, including Azure IoT Hub, which allows companies to "connect, monitor and manage billions of IoT assets", Azure Time Series Insights, which allows enterprises to analyze time-series data collected from IoT devices, and Azure IoT Edge, which allows users to run Azure services directly on IoT devices.

Microsoft also offers Azure IoT Central, a fully managed IoT SaaS that it says can allow companies to create IoT solutions "in hours" without cloud expertise. And its Azure IoT solution accelerators allow enterprises to leverage templates to quickly set up IoT solutions for a variety of use cases, such as equipment monitoring and predictive maintenance.

A Smart Move

By freeing itself from trying to create devices and end-user solutions, Microsoft can focus on creating and improving core technologies every company active in the mobile and IoT spaces will need. That focus could become increasingly important as it seeks to compete with other players offering platform solutions, including Google.

Microsoft's willingness to discontinue the Band and shutter associated services is arguably especially wise when one looks at Fitbit, one of the companies that has come to dominate the market Microsoft targeted with the Band. While Fitbit, with its focused and relatively small product line, has built a billion-dollar company, it has seen its revenue decline for three straight years despite a growing customer base.

This reflects the highly competitive and fast-changing nature of the consumer markets, and Microsoft doesn't need to make a big play for those because it can win in the mobile and IoT spaces on the platform side.

In addition, by focusing on platform, Microsoft can capitalize on the fact that many of the biggest mobile and IoT opportunities aren't even in the consumer markets. Indeed, most of the case studies highlighted on the Azure IoT website are enterprise, not consumer, a reminder that while markets like consumer wearables get a lot of attention, there are billions of devices that are being connected in places like factories, farms and oil fields.

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