Matt Barlow, GM of Marketing for Personal Devices, has been involved with many of the same monumental product launches as Holmdahl. He explained, “We always insisted that the band had to work not just with Windows but with iOS and Android. As we built Microsoft Health, we started thinking, ‘Why should Microsoft Band be the only device that feeds into and benefits from this service?’ We want it connect to any device customers are using to track their health and fitness. We want to remove any and all barriers to providing insights back to customers, regardless of the device they are wearing.”
Microsoft Health is a natural fit for Microsoft because of the company’s lineage in cloud platforms and health and fitness data. Microsoft HealthVault, which allows people to gather, store and share health information with medical providers on a security-enhanced platform, has existed for nearly a decade. Add in MSN Health & Fitness and Xbox Fitness and the company has a long history of helping people manage and learn from fitness data.
“We are simply building on our experience in a broader way with Microsoft Health,” said Barlow, “This is an easy-to-use service for everybody and it will provide insights to help people make better decisions and live a healthier lifestyle. And because we can really help people to live fitter lives, I feel like this is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever worked on.”
Yusuf Mehdi, CVP of Devices & Services Marketing, was an early adopter of fitness tracking and wearable technology and is a self-proclaimed “data junkie.” He said, “There’s a conviction here at Microsoft that we’re at the beginning of a couple of cool trends. One is that technology is going to become way more personal than even the phone in your pocket. It’ll be on your body and will help you to use all kinds of amazing functions without getting in the way of your life. Two is bringing all of the value of our cloud and algorithms to glean insights about fitness and wellness and productivity. As people collect more and more personal data, our machine learning will filter out the noise and surface meaningful insights from all of that information.”
As creation of the device moved forward, the Accessories team was still busy building a lot of other Xbox products. Alam and company would need to split off and form a new group to focus solely on what was to become known as Project K. Alam gave up the title of GM of Accessories in order to head up the new team.
Bilodeau stated, “A number of us from Accessories volunteered to follow Zulfi and work on the project. We weren’t assigned to it; we chose with our feet because we were all so excited about the challenge.”
“We would need to invest thousands of hours refining the algorithms until we made them magical,” said Alam. “Microsoft is great at machine learning and we would collaborate with MSR to make it possible to do productivity work on the small screen and also make sure that the sensors are as accurate as we could make them.”
Tim Paek, Research Manager/Senior Researcher in Intelligent User Experience at MSR stated, “Zulfi came to us and I was incredibly excited because I understood that a wearable could be the next step for Cortana as a truly personal assistant. The device monitors much more of your day, your fitness, helps you to be more productive and is filtering all this data you need to know. That is the future for virtual assistants.”
“We needed to create the best fitness device, but how often are you really at the gym?” Paek mused, “Most people spend the majority of their day at work. This device needs to be a great productivity device as well, and Cortana integrated with Windows can provide that.”