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At Google I/O, expect smartwatches as Android spreads to new screens

Zach Miners | June 25, 2014
The Moto 360 smartwatch could launch, and possibly a mobile health-tracking system

google smartwatches
Android Wear smartwatches will respond to the cue "OK, Google" in the same way Google's Voice Search does.

Expected news around smartwatches, health systems and Android-connected devices at Google's I/O conference, which starts Wednesday, is sure to draw attention from consumers as the search giant tries to connect a wide range of home and personal devices.

Google I/O, the company's biggest event of the year, is officially aimed at helping third-party engineers build products using Google tools for the Android and Chrome platforms. The tech tools, though, are aimed at the development of new consumer products. Some of these products make a splash during the show itself, such as with the launch of Glass two years ago and the handout of Google's US$1,000-plus Chromebook Pixel laptop last year.

This year, developing and designing for Android is a focus as Google tries to compete with Apple in cleanly integrating its software into more hardware. Some two dozen sessions are being held over the two-day show looking at different aspects of Android including performance, UI and how it operates in a cloud environment.

When it comes to hardware, Google is looking beyond smartphones and tablets to leverage Android to enable new ways for users to interact with multiple devices. During I/O, Google could launch or at least give more details about Android-connected smartwatches, a health-tracking system that would run on those watches, and Android-based systems for cars and televisions, according to rumors.

Google's recent acquisition of programmable thermostat maker Nest also shows the company has an interest in the devices some people already have in their homes.

"We're likely to see new tools for developers to help them build Android apps and experiences across a wider range of devices," said Charlene Li, an industry analyst with the Altimeter Group. "There hasn't been as much diversity, yet, in this area," she said.

Take the wristwatch. Google earlier this year announced Android Wear, a version of Android designed to power a new wave of wearable devices, including smartwatches. The idea is to focus less on Android's typical grid layout -- that would look ugly on a watch -- and enable more functions based on voice commands and quick taps. Last week Google revealed more of its thinking on the OS in a YouTube video.

At the time of Android Wear's announcement, Google said it was working with a number of manufacturers like Fossil, LG, Motorola and Samsung on smartwatches. One of the first to launch, Google said, would be Motorola's Moto 360, available in the summer. There's speculation that the Moto 360, or at least more details about it, will be revealed during Wednesday's keynote.

 

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