A Moto 360 smartwatch. REUTERS/Motorola Mobility, LLC
Google said today that smartwatches based on its Android
mobile software will be available later this year, enlisting
a variety of partners and signalling the internet company's
intent to play a leading role in what could be the next big
Google said it was partnering with several consumer
electronics and technology companies, including Samsung, LG
Electronics and Intel, as well as with fashion company Fossil
Group to develop the new line of watches.
The project to extend Android, the operating system used in
more than three out of four smartphones sold worldwide, to
wristwatches is called Android Wear, Google said.
A video posted on Google's blog showed people speaking into
their watches to check sports scores, control music, send
replies to text messages and even open their home garages.
By aligning itself with a broad spectrum of partners to
develop the smartwatches, Google is hoping to replicate the
success that helped make its free Android software the most
popular smartphone operating system, analysts said.
The announcement comes as speculation swirls around
iPhone-maker Apple Inc's plans on the wearable front. Apple
Chief Executive Tim Cook has promised new "product
categories" later this year, and the company is said to be
working on a secretive smartwatch of its own.
Many believe wearable computers represent the next big shift
in technology, just as smartphones evolved from personal
computers, but efforts by various companies so far have been
met with mixed results.
Samsung was among the first to sell a smartwatch for
consumers, though its maiden effort, the Galaxy Gear, was
widely panned by reviewers.
Google's announcement "definitely gives wearables a status
that it's a market in it's own right and it needs to be
treated with the respect that a separate operating system
branch gives it," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with
Kantar World Panel.
Google has also been developing Google Glass, a small
stamp-sized screen attached to a pair of eyeglass frames.
Google Glass can record video, access email, provide
turn-by-turn driving directions and retrieve info from the
Web by connecting wirelessly to a user's cell phone, but it
has also raised concerns ranging from privacy intrusions to
"We've barely scratched the surface of what's possible with
mobile technology," Google said in a post on its official
blog on Tuesday. "That's why we're so excited about
wearables-they understand the context of the world around
you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently,
with just a glance or a spoken word."
Among the more than ten other companies that are partnering
with Google on Android watches are Motorola, HTC Corp, Asus,
Qualcomm Inc, Broadcom Corp and Mediatek Inc.
Juniper Research expects more than 130 million smart wearable
devices will ship by 2018. Moreover, global shipments of
wearable "smart glasses" alone will reach 10 million each
year by 2018, compared with an estimated 87,000 in 2013,
according to the research firm.