Google Android Wear is here - are Apple and Microsoft already too late?

Google Android Wear is here - are Apple and Microsoft already too late?
Google Android Wear is here - are Apple and Microsoft already too late?

Apple and Microsoft risk being left behind in the battle to dominate the nascent wearable technology sector, writes Ian Brennan, head of development at AnalogFolk London

Android Wear, Google’s vision for the Smartwatch, was unveiled yesterday (18 March). Developed as a version of it’s mobile operating system, it is designed specifically for wearable tech. The Android brand is on the up. Is it already too late for Microsoft and Apple to join the party?

Google’s approach to positioning itself as the global supplier of technology and services is clever. It started with search, building a brand dedicated to delivering the best results across web, images, and news.

Microsoft tried to compete with its Bing brand, but despite its operating system being installed on 90% of the world's PCs it hasn’t even come close. Google was the first to do it properly, and no one has been able to compete since.

Slow to react

Sixteen years on from the launch of its core product, the tech giant is now the first of the big three (Google, Apple and Microsoft) to release their consumer focused wearable tech.

Microsoft was slow to react to the mobile movement, and will be mindful that missing out on the customer grab.

This will be a matter of grave concern for Microsoft. It was slow to react to the mobile movement, and will be mindful that missing out on the customer grab will be another costly mistake. Apple, which has a track record of waiting to see what others do, is widely rumoured to be working on a smartwatch for launch later this year.

But it’s too late. Google isn’t just the first to launch, it has also set the benchmark very high.

Manufacturers like Motorola and LG have announced hardware that will support the new Android Wear software. The Moto 360, a stunning round faced smartwatch, was clearly designed as a watch first before adding in the "smart" part of it’s name.

This is where Apple would normally excel. It would come out with a beautiful piece of hardware that everyone aspires to own. Motorola and Google have beaten them to it, and they are going to dominate the early adopters.

Glass movement

Suddenly the Google Glass movement makes sense. It wasn’t just a new idea but also a research piece into wearable tech and an opportunity for the Google X team to really understand the needs of the consumer.

Google released an inspiring video demonstrating the use of its Android Wear software, and, although its a bit awkward when the guy on the bus shouts at his wrist, overall it is an impressive vision.

Suddenly the Google Glass movement makes sense. It wasn’t just a new idea but also a research piece into wearable tech.

Of particular interest are the real-time data capturing opportunities. Speed, distance, and timing information will appeal to fitness fans. Couple that with Google Maps integration, and your wrist suddenly becomes a companion for your daily journeys.

The big tech companies have differing opinions on how wearable tech should look. Samsung recently announced a device called the Samsung Gear Fit a fitness band with smartwatch aspirations.

But it is not just the big hitters who have a say on the direction of this market. Pebble, a Kickstarter success story, has had the most success with consumers. Its "e-paper" screen allows for an impressive seven-day battery life, something others are struggling with.

As it did with Android Mobile, Google is opening up its APIs to developers. This is fantastic news for brands, and something marketers can genuinely get excited about. It gives them the opportunity to position themselves as one of the first to adopt this new technology and use it to their advantage.

A sports hydration brand could monitor users activity, and prompt them to stay hydrated. Or a football club could be the first to accept a QR code on the watch as your match day ticket.

The opportunity is there for brands: move fast and associate yourself with the technology early on.

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