Wearable devices might be the next arena for hardware disruption, and a huge player is staking its claim. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) already has the exclusive face-mounted computer market cornered, and it seems to be going for a more consumer-friendly wearable approach with wrist-mounted devices.
Russakovskii, founder of Android Police, posted a rumor on his Google + account that said Google will announce a
code-named Gem on Halloween this year, when it releases the newest Android version,
Russakovskii is "relatively confident" that his sources are correct. The date isn't a stretch to believe. The end of October last year was when Google unveiled the Nexus 4, its flagship smartphone. It's an open secret that the next Nexus phone will also debut at the next Google keynote.
Another reason to put some stock into this rumor is the fact that Google acquired
a wearable tech startup called WIMM Labs on the DL a year ago. WIMM created an Android-based developer platform for wearable displays and produced its own prototype smartwatch in 2011. In the summer of 2012, WIMM entered into a "exclusive, confidential relationship" with an unnamed company, and many speculated that it might be Apple
(NASDAQ:AAPL). It was revealed in August that it was actually Google that bought up WIMM. Google had a year of talent -- and technology -- to work it out, plus a ready-made Android platform.
Whether the rumor is true or not, Google will be entering a crowded field when it comes to wearable tech. Samsung
(OTCMKTS:SSNLF) already has one out, but it only works in tandem with a few Samsung phones, has awful battery life, and costs at least $300. Reviews were almost all negative, as the interface seemed so slapdash and laggy. Sony
(NYSE:SNE) made a decent effort
with another Android-based watch as well. The fabled iWatch still hasn't materialized. Qualcomm's
(NASDAQ:QCOM) Toq already seems dead on arrival.
Such a device, like the Samsung competitor, will probably work in tandem with the smartphone, taking away the need for an extra processor.
Opinion on smartwatches varies. Do you really need yet another device to charge every day? Between your laptop, tablet and smartphone, do you really need another gadget to tell you when you get an email?
But a wrist-mounted computer is definitely more palatable to consumers outside of the futurist extremist set that currently has access to Glass (or its forthcoming rivals). Watches are essentially jewelry at this point. If you have a phone, you don't need one per se, especially if it only tells time.
But some folks would like to see their notifications and such without having to reach into their pockets (or dig around in a handbag), pull out a phone, unlock it, and pull down notifications, only to learn that there's a sale on at Banana Republic. It's just much more suave to peek at your wrist. Google co-founder even calls phone chimping 'emasculating
,' -- because Google Glass is just so much more macho.
Wearable computers are already out there in the form of "quantified self" applications such as Nike's
(NYSE:NKE) FuelBand. The future where an electronic device opens your doors, starts your car, directs you around town, and controls your home thermostat --- the Dick Tracey-like image of wrist-computing -- promises to be more convenient than whipping out the phone for all of those things.
The real question is whether Google, or someone else, can get the price down and the battery life up to make a smartwatch actually useful for the normals.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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