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Suddenly, wearables are big with new developer software releases

Emerging battle with Samsung and Google will be joined by Apple and Microsoft

March 18, 2014 04:13 PM ET

Computerworld - If you didn't think wearables, including smartwatches, were going to be big, think again.

Google and Samsung are among the biggest players in this emerging tech field and both just made new wearable app developer announcements. But Apple and Microsoft are expected to compete as well.

Moto 360 smartwatch
Motorola announced the Moto 360 smartwatch that will run on Android Wear. (Photo: Motorola)

Google on Tuesday announced an Android Wear Developer Preview just one day after Samsung announced a Tizen SDK (software development kit) for Wearables for building Web and native apps for wearables, including its newest Gear smartwatches.

Google didn't announce smartwatch hardware per se, but indicated in two videos in its Tuesday blog that it will use a voice-activated approach to watches that access and control other devices, such as a smartphone. By saying, "OK, Google" users will be able to play music and start Web searches, among other tasks. One video depicted a watch with a round shape, while the second showed watches that were square and rectangles.

Google is working with several companies on smartwatches, including Motorola, which separately announced Moto 360, a smartwatch based on Android Wear that will ship this summer. The Moto 360 appears to be similar to the round-faced watch that Google showed in its video.

LG Electronics also announced the G watch running Android Wear, but offered few details.

"Today we're announcing that Android is extending to wearables," said David Singleton, Google's director of engineering for Android, in one of the videos. "We're just getting started, and the possibilities for devices that you wear on your body are endless."

At Samsung, the Tizen approach is initially designed to help build apps for its Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches, which are set for an April release. The devices were launched earlier at Mobile World Congress in February. Samsung also listed a number of apps already available for the Gear 2.

As an indicator of how competitive the wearable computing industry has suddenly become, consider this timeline: Samsung released its Tizen SDK just nine days after Google announced at the South by Southwest conference on March 9 that its Android Wear SDK was coming. Then Google posted its blog with its Android SDK preview on Tuesday, just a day after Samsung's SDK was posted online.

It's clear that both Samsung and Google want to woo developers, but the company likely to be the most successful is still Apple, according to analysts.

Google and Apple, but not Samsung, will have the advantage in the emerging wearables battle, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy. That's because Google and Apple "currently own the hearts and minds of developers," Moorhead said. Apple is expected to launch a smartwatch later in 2014.

"If [Google and Apple] can make it easy for current developers to deliver a good experience, then there won't be a lot of room for a ... Samsung ecosystem," he said. "Had Samsung started a lot earlier, it may have been a different story."



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