Five days ago, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) provided details on its upcoming OS for smart watches, referred to as Android Wear. The operating system looks robust enough to compete with Tizen OS (OTC:SSNLF), and perhaps Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). While, we have no clue as to what's in store over in Cupertino, Google seems to have come up with a platform that adequately addresses the needs of the OEMs, software developers, and end-users. This strategic balance leads me to believe that the Android operating system will successfully transition to the wearable computing form factor.
Android Wear is all about notifications and context
Based on Google's blog, Android Wear is a notification-driven device. Hypothetically speaking, a person will be notified of status messages from Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), e-mails from Gmail, or Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) events.
In the Android Wear ad, a group of people arrive at the beach, but are warned by their smartwatch that there are jelly fishes on the beach. With contextual information they move to a different beach. This can have many other implications as Google Wear can potentially alert the user of whether there's been a nearby car accident, or if criminal activity has been reported within the neighborhood. Pertinent information depends heavily on the context of the situation, meaning that Google's software developers are designing Android Wear for situational awareness.
The transition to wearable devices is giving us an early glance of web 3.0, or what some would call the semantic web. In order for computer logic to be as refined as a human, added sensor data will need to be inputted into a computer for it to offer contextual information. This is why Apple, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Google add sensors to each successive product generation.
Voice recognition a key component of success
Android Wear's voice recognition software will make it easier for users to ask questions or make commands. To activate the device, all a user would have to say is "okay Google." Since Google is a verb in modern English, it's going to be interesting to see if they can transition the word into a noun. When I was using my Samsung Galaxy S3, I found the Samsung voice application very unintuitive. So if anything, Android's voice software has to be done right, otherwise Google risks adding another feature that no one uses. In the developer preview, the engineer states that the device will be heavily dependent on Google's voice recognition software, putting an added layer of importance on artificial intelligence in the contextual environment.
Google states that the operating system will support a lot of fitness applications. In the developer preview, Google's software engineer mentions that it's working very closely with its electronics partners. My guess is that the OEMs [Sony (NYSE:SNE), HTC, LG, and Motorola] will standardize the hardware so that third party developers can more easily program software to take advantage of heart rate sensors etc. Standardization of sensors will determine the overall robustness of the platform, and assuming applications can work across a host of different Android devices, the collective Android ecosystem may become a significant competitive threat to Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung.
Finally, Google demonstrates that Android Wear can be used to interact with other devices. If anyone has synched their smartphone to their television to use YouTube, this concept is easy to understand. There's the potential of using the smartwatch to open doors, garage doors, activate the dishwasher, close the blinds, turn on the car, and turn on the television. The smartwatch sets the stage for device-to-device communication.
Google plans to release its software development kit to third party developers this week. While obvious uses of the smartwatch are easy to explain, unknowns are what really excite me. With wearable applications, the sky is the limit, and I can't wait to see what comes next from the human imagination.
Google has developed a user-centric strategy for wearable computing by designing an operating system that leverages contextual information and voice commands. Based on what I see, Google has more than adequately addressed the software needs of wearable computing.
It will be up to the hardware OEMs to come up with compelling hardware for this new device category. Assuming hardware OEMs are able to work with Google's ecosystem like it has with smartphones, there's no doubt in my mind that Android will retain its relevance for years to come.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.