Winds of Change:
On March 18, 2014 Google forever changed the landscape of what we would consider the traditional battlefield for the hearts and minds of mobile tech consumers with the introduction of Android Wear. Allow me to elaborate a bit. The traditional battlefield of the mobile tech war was previously waged in the laptop PC market; this was until June 29, 2007. Now if your a big tech nerd like I am you know that was the day Apple officially introduced the world to the iPhone, the harbinger of the departure from the old battlefield onto the new battlefield we find ourselves navigating today. From 2007 to current the smartphone has been the gateway drug or (the usher if you will) to guide us from the overgrown and complex word of traditional computing into the world of mobile computing. Over the years, we have shifted our shopping habits from Laptops to Tablets and from Landlines to Smartphones. Many people are now introduced to ecosystems via smartphones and tablets before they even purchase their own PC. So if I own an iPhone, I am more apt to buy a MacBook or iMAC before I purchase a PC. If I own a Samsung smartphone I am more inclined to purchase a Samsung PC and so on, this leads me to my next point.
The New Field of Play:
So what was it that Google did on March 18th? What Google did is what we call obtaining first strike advantage. Google was the first company to bring an open software platform backed by a robust suite of services to market. Let me say that again for effect; a robust suite of services backs Android Wear. Did you notice that Google named it Android Wear and not Android Watch or something isolated? This is because Android Wear is designed to be as flexible for wearable devices as Android is for smartphones. This single move by Google has shifted the landscape of how we potentially will be introduced to ecosystems. Android Wear is not just for Watches, lets think bigger. How about contact lenses, bracelets, rings, belt buckles (though that’s just crazy to think of). The possibilities are only limited by an OEM’s capability to construct the hardware and this is only the beginning of the internet of things. In this new battlefield it’s not about full blown OS’s or fancy transition effects and UI’s. This is a battlefield where context will be king and knowing more about the consumers preferences will rule the day, it’s about getting the right information at the right moment and nobody knows that world better than Google.
We still have yet to see what Apple or even Microsoft may have to offer, but allow me to point out the differentiating line between Google and the other players in one image.
What you see is a list of partners already signed up to support Android Wear and this is before any official hardware running the new OS has hit the market. If Apple sticks to its traditional approach they will create a single smartwatch and this will be the “One watch to rule them all”. Here is the flaw in that logic, watches and wearables are not smartphones, they are looked at as jewelry and nobody wants to have the same watch as everyone else. If you want to win in the world of wearables you’re gonna need some friends and I can only hope Apple hasn’t pissed off so many people with litigation that they can’t find anyone to work with them. So far as Microsoft, they have been pretty silent on the wareables front and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. I can only hope that they have something brewing under their hats because if not the wearables space will be quickly monopolized by Android Wear with the war being waged between the partners of Google and that could get boring pretty quickly.
What’s this all mean? Well, I think watches and other wearables will become affordable commodities very quickly and very soon people may be brought into ecosystems via a wearable before a smartphone. People may want to buy a Moto 360 before buying an Android phone because it’s a sexy watch, but once they realize it’s Android compatible that possible iPhone user may swing to Android because his watch is Android and the car he is driving has Android baked into the stereo system. When he walks into his home he has a NEST thermostat that has an iPhone app; but it’s owned by Google and he may have more control over the automation of that thermostat due to the power of Android. So you see, it is about the internet of things. But the ultimate goal of Google has always been to have their services become a ubiquitous part of our lives (always there, but not there) and with the services they already provide it’s very hard for this geek to see how anyone else can compete.