If you didn't already 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.
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.
"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."
Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar WorldPanel, added, "There is no question that wearables is the next battle ground. One could see it as Samsung vs. Google for now, but soon it will be Everybody vs. Apple."
But other analysts said not to discount what Samsung is doing with Tizen and its probable larger goal of using the lightweight OS for products under the Internet of Things umbrella.
Samsung's use of Tizen is initially designed to allow use of HTML5 for adapting existing apps for Gear devices or for turning Gear apps into apps for other devices. Tizen is considered lightweight and easily adaptable for small devices like smartwatches with small processors and less memory. As such, Tizen is likely to be Samsung's entry into a larger world of embedded computing used in many devices -- even the refrigerators that Samsung makes, according to analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates.
"Samsung may be pushing Tizen as a defacto gadget OS, and right now Android has very little presence in the gadgets market," Gold said. "I think the real battleground is being set for the larger Internet of Things, rather than just wearables. I'm not confident that Android can have a major impact beyond phone-related gadgets."
Another of Samsung's motives with Tizen is to separate itself from Google and Android, Gold said. "Samsung looks at Android as Google created and owned, and with Google having nearly dictatorial control over it -- not a position that Samsung finds very attractive," Gold said. "Samsung sees itself as a leader in the industry and wants to move beyond its client relationship with Google and become more of a market leader."
In the emerging battle of ecosystems -- moving from smartphones to wearables -- "the jury is still out on what it will take to win," Milanesi said. She said it isn't clear whether a different OS for phones and tablets than for wearables is better than a single OS for all form factors. In the case of Microsoft, however, it's clear that the full Windows 8 OS won't run efficiently on wearables, she said.
"Samsung is being smart about using Tizen in a market that has not been proven yet and has a ways to go before getting as impactful as the smartphone market," she added.
This article, Suddenly, wearables and smartwatches, are big with new developer software releases, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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