Microsoft to release wearable fitness tracker this fall, report says

Allegedly in a form factor similar to the Samsung Gear Fit, Microsoft's wristband would be the latest wearable offering from a high-profile tech company.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
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Wrist-worn wearable fitness trackers including the Fitbit Flex (left), Samsung Gear Fit (center), and Nike FuelBand. Sarah Tew/CNET

Wearable technology is top of mind for large tech companies hoping to cash in on the rising trend of strapping devices to our wrists that count steps, track sleep, and communicate with our smartphones.

Now, Microsoft may be getting off the sidelines and out of its research and development labs -- where the company has been brewing over Windows wearables for months -- with its very own product, according to a report from Microsoft expert Paul Thurrott over at SuperSite for Windows.

The wearable will be a wristband, priced and designed similarly to Samsung's $199 Gear Fit, sources tell Thurrott. Though aesthetically in line with fitness trackers from companies like Fitbit and Jawbone, this breed of wearable would be more powerful, likely incorporating a color screen like the Gear Fit and presumably going beyond simple activity tracking to include displaying time, texts, emails, and other smartphone-fed data.

As for branding, it may fall in the hands of Nokia and its Lumia line of devices, or perhaps the Surface line of devices. Thurrott puts the availability and announcement at fourth quarter 2014.

Perhaps Thurrott's most surprising tidbit, however, is that Microsoft may not restrict its wearable to the Windows Phone operating system and may include Apple's iOS and Android. Though startups Fitbit, Jawbone, Pebble are all multi-platform, such a move from Microsoft would mark a stark departure in strategy from large-scale wearable incumbents like Samsung, which requires users pair Samsung phones with its Gear line of wearables. Apple, which his expected to enter the market this fall with its very own wearable dubbed the "iWatch," will without a doubt keep its device iOS-only.

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For Microsoft, the timing is just right to jump in the ring as the wearables markets crowds with players big and small. Last week, Google gave us a first look at its mobile operating system for wearables, called Android Wear, now running on smartwatches from Samsung and LG. Motorola's own Moto 360 smartwatch is slated for later this summer. Smaller fish, like Pebble and Misfit, are now collaborating to combine aspects of their respective platforms in a bid to stay competitive against the tech giants.

Interestingly, if Microsoft does go the route of a Gear Fit-like wristband -- instead of the increasingly popular smartwatch form factor -- that may put it more in direct competition with Apple. For now, we still don't know if Apple's supposed iWatch is really a watch at all, and the most popular mock-ups from third-party designers say a wristband-like fitness device makes more sense, especially with the debut of iOS 8's HealthKit.

When contacted, a Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment.