Did you get a Microsoft Band for Christmas? Consider yourself one of the few.
The Redmond company’s $200 fitness tracker/smartwatch is proving extremely difficult to find in its first season on the shelves. It’s sold out online, and periodic shipments to the company’s stores are quickly gobbled up.
A sign currently on display at the University Village Microsoft Store informs customers, “Due to the popularity of Microsoft Band, we are sold out.”
Setting aside the potential for lost sales, popularity is not the worst impression to be giving in a crowded market for fitness trackers. But one of the oldest tricks in the tech industry is making limited initial supply appear like strong demand.
So which is it? Based on our checks at the company’s stores, it seems to be a combination of the two.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, an employee at Microsoft’s popup store at Seattle’s Pacific Place shopping center said shipments of Microsoft Bands were selling out almost “instantly” when they came in, which wasn’t often.
MICROSOFT BAND DIARY
This weekend, an employee at the University Village store said the location has been receiving semi-regular shipments of the device, numbering in the hundreds of units each time, but word spreads rapidly and they sell out fast, with some customers buying multiple devices at a time.
This is in Microsoft’s backyard, and the devices haven’t been distributed widely to employees, which would help to explain the bulk sales. But it’s tough to find the Microsoft Band anywhere, not just in the Seattle region.
Here’s the official word from a company spokesman in an email to GeekWire this week: “We continue to see a great response to the Microsoft Band. While we are currently sold out of Bands online, all brick and mortar Microsoft Stores will continue to receive shipments throughout the holiday season. We expect to have additional inventory online in early 2015.”
In many ways, this isn’t a surprise. Microsoft warned at the outset that the Band would be available in “limited quantities.”
That disclosure was part of an oddly delivered launch: Microsoft unveiled the device in the middle of Game 7 of the World Series, with little fanfare and no splashy media event. The launch left the distinct impression that this product didn’t have the full weight of the company behind it.
For that reason, it will be fascinating to see what happens to the Microsoft Band over the next year. Apart from ramping up the supply, the company needs to deliver on its promise to integrate advanced analytics, such as the ability to compare users’ calendars to their health data to make correlations such as the impact of stressful meetings on sleep patterns.
The other big test: Will there be a new version of the Microsoft Band in 2015? If Microsoft is serious about this category, it will need to move quickly to launch a follow-up device to address some of the shortcomings of the original, such as two-day battery life and a propensity to scratching.
In the meantime, if you want to get your hands on one of these things, better start practicing your running now.