Google has unveiled Android Wear, a version of its Android operating system that can be worn around the wrist. The product is meant to go head-to-head with Apple’s Smartwatch.
Getting Android to work with wearable computers is a pre-emptive move for Google. The company has entered the tablet and Smartphone market after Apple, but the platform has become a breakaway hit as an operating system for Smartphones. With this move, they’ll be the first place that app builders and software partners will come to in order to create tools to make the gadget popular.
A smart move. Despite Apple’s progress in this market, the Google Android product will also actually be on consumers before Apple’s product is released onto the market – which can be a boon to early sales. Although Apple has been busy developing its Smartwatch for some time, the exact release date is not yet clear. If Google can have its version of the Smartwatch be as iconic as the iPod’s white headphones, then it will be, as a company, forever linked with this new technology.
The two companies have been locked into a “war of ecosystems” for years, with both trying to stake claim on new content, service and product markets as they arise. They’ve gone head to head in apps, content and services in order to find loyal customers that will support their branded options. Interest from customers is mainly driven by the apps and the content. The more appealing they are, the more sought-after the devices become. Imagine the iPod trying to succeed without the Apple iTunes library, for example.
Apple’s reliable strategy. For Apple, the reliable strategy has been to build gadgets based on its own software. Then, they allow outside developers to make apps, and drive interest in their iPad and iPhone devices. The devices are updated each year or so, which fuels another round of app development, and the cycle continues.
And Google’s…Google takes a different, although very successful, approach. They team up first with manufacturers and build devices around the company-made software (Android). Other companies, like Samsung or HTC, install the software on their devices. Overall, the potential market for products on Google software has widened significantly in the past few years.
However, when developers look to create apps, they often focus on Apple’s iOS first and Android second. This gives iOS users an increased chance to access apps and be the first to try new programs. Developers have said that they work on iOS first because it is easier to develop an app for Apple devices than it is for the numerous types of Android ones available on the market. Android phones use the same basic software but many of them made small changes that can make the app developers’ work more challenging.
A strategic approach for wearable computers. Based on this experience, Google is trying a strategic approach for wearable computers. By making the software public before the market takes off, they hope to make developers comfortable with the platform and give them plenty of time to create programs for wearable computer users.
Wearable computers have not yet gained traction with mainstream consumers, but they are expected to become popular over the next few years. Companies like Sony, Samsung and Pebble are already producing Smartwatches. According to research firm Gartner, wearable devices, including tattoos, shoes and accessories, will be part of a $10 billion market by the year 2016.
One of the first Smartwatches. One of the first Smartwatches running Google software will be the LG G Watch from LG Electronics. The Moto 360 will be released by Moto Mobility, the handset maker that Google recently agreed it would sell to Lenovo. Google has also said that it was working on watches with Asus, HTC and Samsung.
The company would not comment on whether manufacturers would have to pay a licensing fee to use Android Wear. Christopher Katsaros, a spokesman, said that more details would be announced in the coming months. It was also unclear whether Google would eventually make its own watch. The company has shown a strong interest in hardware, despite its spotty track record. Google Glass is not yet in wide production. Other Google brand Android devices were made by partners like Samsung Electronics and LG.
One of the company’s most significant acquisitions in hardware came in 2012, when it bought Motorola Mobility, for more than $12 billion. In January, sales of Moto X, its first flagship Smartphone were disappointing. Google announced that it would sell Motorola to Lenovo, the Chinese company, for $3 billion.
Still need to convince consumers. Google may still have to convince consumers to buy the Smartwatch. The physical design is outside of the company’s control and some people are complaining that it is just plain ugly – large, square and clunky. Until this is dealt with, consumers may steer clear even with the apps and software to support its use.