Microsoft isn't going to allow Apple and Google to control the mobile health market. Today, it announced Microsoft Health, its take on collecting and analyzing consumer health data. The Microsoft Health platform entails on-device apps, wearables and cloud-based analytics. And of course, developers are invited to play along.
The first piece of the platform is the Microsoft Health app. The app is available to Microsoft's own Windows Phone platform, as well as Android and iOS. Microsoft was smart to support its competitors' operating systems. The app is free and available to all three mobile platforms beginning today. The app behaves a bit differently than Apple's HealthKit and Google Fit, however. HealthKit and Fit both collect and analyze health and fitness data directly on the handset. Microsoft Health instead uses the app as a gateway to the cloud. (Microsoft insists everything is safe and secure.)
The crux of the platform is the cloud service. Microsoft says it is meant for both consumers and the healthcare industry, though it didn't spell out the differences between the two. It stores data such as steps taken, calories burned and heart rate. Data stored in the cloud can be combined and then assessed by what Microsoft calls its "Intelligence Engine." The engine is able to generate insights for consumers, such as which activities burn the most calories or how well they sleep. According to Microsoft, the cloud-based tools will eventually evolve to include location and calendar information to expound upon the value of the analysis provided. For example, it will be able to offer details about fitness performance relative to the user's work schedule, or assess whether eating breakfast helps the user run faster or slower.
At launch, Microsoft Health works with a handful of third-party apps and services. For example, Microsoft Health works with the Up wearable from Jawbone, and apps such as MapMyFitness and RunKeeper. Users will also be able to share their information with their medical providers through HealthVault. Established players aren't the only ones who'll have access to Microsoft Health. Microsoft has a complete offering for new entrants and startups that includes the app, APIs and cloud storage for data. The company said it plans to update developer tools, including an SDK and cross-platform apps, on a regular basis moving forward.
The last piece of the platform is Microsoft's own wearable, the Microsoft Band. The $199 device is meant to be worn at all times. It carries 10 sensors that track heart rate, steps, calories, sleep quality and more. Through the Health app, Band owners can also use the wearable for incoming notifications, such as phone calls and emails, as well as access Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant. Further, the Band includes curated workouts developed by Gold's Gym, Shape and Men's Fitness. It is available directly from Microsoft's website and retail stores beginning today. Microsoft warned that quantities will be limited at first.
Microsoft says this is its first step into the healthcare and wearables market. It promised to have more information soon.