How Many Bands Did Microsoft Have at Launch? Would You Believe 5,000?

Microsoft-Band---official-imagesUpdate (Tuesday November 18, 2014 2:24PM)Today’s online stock of Microsoft Band sells out in 15 minutes! Click here to read more.

By now the ‘Stealth Launch’ of the Microsoft Band is quickly becoming a legend. Quantities were so limited at launch that it sold out on line within hours. That sounds more like a gold-plated iPhone launch than an unexpected new Microsoft product release, but that’s how it was.

And to a large extent, it still is. It’s been a couple of weeks now and the Band is still Out Of Stock online, and reports are that most stores are out as well.

There has been a lot of speculation online that Microsoft did this deliberately, to create the appearance that this was a highly desired and successful product. Personally, I don’t think that makes much sense, but clearly there was a mis-match between supply and demand.

A while ago I called the Microsoft Band Support people to inquire about an ‘update’ that showed up for the Band. As we reported, it turned out that this wasn’t an update to the Band, but rather to an App that wanted to communicate with the Band.

"Feeling Lucky...Punk?"
“Feeling Lucky…Punk?”

While I was on the line I mentioned how lucky I seemed to have been to get one of them before they sold out. “You’re luckier than you think, Microsoft only had 5,000 of them for the launch.” he said.

That hit me like a thunderbolt. “Five thousand!”, I exclaimed. “Are you kidding me!”. “No.” He replied, “Five thousand. Five, zero, zero, zero. That’s all. They’re working hard now to build more to meet the demand, but we have no idea when they will be back in stock again.”

I asked him to repeat the number back to me, just so I was sure I understood. He did, and again, the number was just 5,000.

That’s an amazingly small product launch. There’s testing the waters, but this would be more like testing a puddle!

Now, Support people are an interesting group. Sometimes they know more than they should, and sometimes they know less than they need to, and sometimes they don’t know as much as they think they do. Most of the time I’ve found they know what they need to solve basic issues, so even though it was a recent and very interesting event, one wonders why a support rep would be privy to launch stock volume information.

After all, this IS Microsoft. How long did it take them to release sales numbers for the Xbox One? So in the interests of keeping facts straight, we reached out to Microsoft and asked them to comment on the information their rep had given me.

Initially, their response, was, well, I’ll let you read it:

From a Microsoft spokesperson:

“We are excited by the response we have seen to Microsoft Band but Microsoft does not comment on production volumes.”

That’s not saying much is it. It neither confirmed nor denied the accuracy of the information at hand. Having added nothing to the conversation, we were just going to have to go with what we had. I guess Microsoft figured that out, because after a short while they added the following:

we don’t officially share or comment on specific numbers but, so you’re aware, we have built and have sold well beyond 5,000 units.

"Well?  Do You?"
“Well? Do You?” Hurry up. ‘Cause I gotta go order some Starbucks with this thing!”

So there you have it. Was it 5,000, or “well beyond 5,000 units.”?  Personally, I thought the 5,000 number was low, but clearly they had a lot fewer than they could have sold. Let’s hope they will be able to work through the backlog soon.  Both Black Friday and Christmas are coming up, as are a number of Openings of new Microsoft Stores (we will be covering some of them) so there will be a lot of people hoping to see one on their wrist soon.

Ordering at Starbucks with the Microsoft Band!

If you’ve taken delivery of your new MS Band, or picked one up at your local Microsoft Store, you will have received a $5 gift card from Starbucks and there’s a good reason for that. Starbucks is a launch partner for the Band, with their own dedicated App pre-installed on your new toy. Using the card is as simple as going to the Starbucks Site, opening your account or registering for a new one, adding the card to your account, and you’re all set. You can also add value to the card by credit card or PayPal, and enable an autorefill option should you wish.

"Our Motto here at MPR"
“Our Motto here at MPR”

Well, I was getting a bit draggy after lunch here today, time shifted from the daylight savings time clock change and staying up late shooting the unboxing video the other day, so I decided I’d try out the Starbucks App and use my $5 on a BIG cup of coffee! Once you have registered your card, opening your Starbucks Band App will get the ball rolling automatically, so Band on wrist, I straggled out to my local Starbucks to get caffeinated! Opening the App is as simple as pressing the Power Button to wake the Band up, swiping right to the Starbucks symbol, and tappingSBucks App Logo on MS Band on it.

This will open up the App which just displays your card number as a bar code. The display keeps this in screen for about 15 seconds, and given how fast the process is you might as well hold off on this until you have made your order. When my turn at the counter came, I received a couple of nice surprises. I was holding my phone and activating the camera to photogra

Did you think I was going to let you buy your coffee on MY Account?
Did you think I was going to let you buy your coffee on MY Account? 

ph the process when my Barista spotted my oh so subtle banana-yellow Lumia 1020 and said:” Oh! Is that a Windows Phone? I’ve been seeing a bunch of them and I think they’re really cool.” Coming only a few weeks after the launch of the new iPhone the recognition of my Lumia was a nice indication of the increasing presence of Windows Phone here in the US.

“Yes it is.” I said, “and it is a really great phone, but the coolest thing I have is actually this.”, pointing to the MS Band on my wrist. “Oh! Is that the new Band thing? That’s so cool. We got a Memo about it today, you’re my first. Can I see it?” So a small group of curious Baristas and Customers began craning their necks to see the Band in action. “Sure”, I said, “Can I use it to pay first?”

"And He waveth His hand, and Lo! Caffeine was Delivered!"
“And He waveth His hand, and Lo!                                            Caffeine was Delivered From Bondage!”

And so I tapped the Starbucks App, the Bar Code appeared, and I turned the inside of my wrist (Yes, I’m an “Innie”, not an “Outie”) at the scanner. My Barista hit the button to activate it, it picked up my code with a discrete beep, and it was all over. Coffee paid for, people began quizzing me about the band and looking it over.

Now, ordinarily, I love being a quasi-Ambassador for most Microsoft products, but in this case,

"Is that the Large size MS Band you're wearing?"
“Is that the Large size MS Band you’re wearing?”

I was unprepared for the questioning and almost fawning over my wrist that insured. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a good-looking, ok, a GREAT-looking wrist, which leads the eye seamlessly to my large hands (Hello Ladies!), but I can’t remember the last time I was asked to trot it out for a crowd of gawking strangers with lustful longing in their eyes. OK, yes I can, but that’s the stuff I write about for another Site.

"You have no idea the risk you're taking"
“You have no idea the risk you’re taking”

In this case, I had to struggle a bit to retain my composure and answer their questions patiently with some degree of accuracy. Didn’t these people realize I hadn’t had my daily coffee yet? This was not my most sociable hour and being besieged like those guys in the Hai Karate commercials from the 60’s was something I just wasn’t quite ready for.

But I persevered, answered their questions, and prayed my Grande Skinny Latte would arrive soon, with a large-bore IV needle so I could handle the onslaught. Sure enough, the coffee arrived, I gulped it gratefully, and strolled out of the store with the warm embrace of caffeine spreading thru my brain.

"Fantastic! But didn't I order this with an IV?"
“Fantastic! But didn’t I order this with an IV?”

So there you have it. Using the Starbucks App to claim your free coffee via your new MS Band is a quick and easy process, and one that may serve as a great sign of things that may come as other companies develop Apps for the Band, making various activities and transactions as easy as this was. Just make sure you’re ready to be the center of attention for the next few weeks until this high-tech jewel become everyday.

It’s a burden, but someone has to wear it.

Microsoft working on a headband to help the blind

microsoft headband

Microsoft seems to be working on another wearable device on top of the already heavily rumored smart watch/fitness band device.  This is a unique wearable, as it is created to help blind people see the world around them.  This wearable device is a smart headband, and is resembles an Alice band.

This device is designed for people with poor or no vision at all, and it is designed to relay audio instructions and updates via an earpiece when the user glances at an object of interest.  This headset will be able to provide details on nearby objects, and it can offer guidance to the user helping them get from one location to another. Also, it will warn the user about obstacles, all via audio into the earpiece.  This device works by bouncing information from sensors mounted on items such as buildings or train carriages to a receiver in the wearer’s headband.

Neowin reports that development is in the early stages, but there are already 8 blind people testing their product near Microsoft’s UK headquarters in Reading.

It has also been reported that Microsoft’s new headband has been tested in some quite tricky locations, and performed very well.  This new headband has been tested a little more rigorously recently, as users took this product to an extremely busy Reading train station in Berkshire UK, and it performed quite well.  Users were navigated through a maze of staircases, escalators and ticket barriers.

The video below is an example of how some these features would be used.  However, this is a concept video released in 2012.

This project is called Cities Unlocked, and it involves organization such as Tesco, Barclays, Costa Coffee, First Great Western and First Group.  Microsoft is part of a consortium with Future Cities Catapult, which is a technology body funded by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, and Guide Dogs.

The consortium said: ‘The short-term goal is to make the city more accessible and enjoyable for people with sight loss, by using new technologies. The longer term aim is to … revolutionise the urban experience for everyone, through more effective collaboration and innovation’

More information is expected to be revealed in the next few months, and if Microsoft’s headband device is successful, it can be something that can have a profoundly positive, life changing effect on blind people’s lives.

Source: Neowin & Daily Mail