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Google's Android Wear to Benefit Taiwanese Hardware Partners

Mar 28, 2014 | By Steve Chuang

Google Inc. has ventured into the promising segment of wearable electronic devices by unveiling a new platform, Android Wear, in late March. This is likely to bring lucrative benefits to a number of Taiwanese electronics manufacturers that are included on Google's hardware partner list, though competition among operating system developers has just begun and will surely intensify.

On its blog, Google explained that the new platform has lots of features, including responding to text by voice, Hands-free Google Now, sleep tracking, interacting with non-smartphone devices, a large variety of hardware, scanable ticketing, Chromecast integration, music control, smartphone positioning, personal health records, and weather and traffic information on demand.

To create a better user experience, Android Wear claims to follow these principles: “Contextually Aware and Smart” to provide users timely, relevant, and specific information; “Glanceable” to ensure the maximum payload of information with a minimum of fuss; “Zero and Low Interaction” to allow the least possible requirements for inputs and to base most inputs around touch swipes or voice; and “Helpful” to make wearables installed with the operating system a personal assistant which always provides ready answers right when users need them.

Market observers believe that the Google's decision to develop an operating system specifically for wearables shows its optimism about the prospects of this segment, and its ambition to build an early lead in the race to become the world's largest supplier of wearables operating systems while increasing the influence of Android. However, given that wearable electronic devices have yet to gain popularity among consumers, Gartner Inc., a British market research firm, says that which operating system developers, including Google and Apple, will emerge as leaders of the segment remains to be seen.

However that contest progresses, a number of Taiwanese firms are likely to realize short-term benefits from the launch of the new platform, which is expected to speed the development of wearable electronic devices.

The local beneficiaries include HTC Corp., a smartphone vendor; Asustek Computer Inc., a PC vendor; and MediaTek Inc., an IC chip designer, all of which have been named by Google as hardware partners together with LG, Samsung, Motorola, Intel, MIG, Qualcomm, Fossil, and Broadcom.

Both HTC and Asustek, which have been developing wearable devices for some time, revealed earlier that their models will likely hit the market this year. Meanwhile, MediaTek has already worked out several solutions for highly integrated, small-sized wearable devices, indoor positioning, and smart homes that are well fitted to Android Wear's functions.

Smart Glasses to Drive Growth
Gartner predicts that global shipments of wearable electronic devices will reach 200 million units in 2020, at which time revenue generated by related products and services will reach US$260 billion, driven mostly by smart glasses.

Angela McIntyre, Gartner's research director, reported that global shipments of smart glasses are expected to show a compound annual growth rate of 50% up to 2020, primarily because such products have been developed earlier than most other wearable devices and generally feature innovative functions that are more likely to create better user experiences.

This year, McIntyre said, the global market will be sustained largely  by wearables used in fitness, sports, and healthcare, and shipments of such applications are estimated to total 35 million units.

McIntyre pointed out that wearable devices will become an important interface between consumers and the Internet of things, with a related boom in services such as health care for the elderly and infants. (SC)

Application of Wearable Electronic Devices
Product
Main Features & Purposes
Price Range
Current Models on Market
Smart Glasses
Acoustic control, wink cameras, navigation
About NT$45,000
Google Glass
Smart Watches
Cameras, texting, phone calls, remote control
NT$6,000-10,000
Samsung's Gear and Sony's SmartWatch series
Smart Wristbands
Heartbeat detection, personal schedule recording, health management, cameras
NT$5,000-8,000
Samsung's Gear Fit, Sony's Smartband, Hauwei's Talkband and Fitbit's Flex and Force series
Smart Clothes and Footwear
Heartbeat and body temperature detection, pedometers
Not available yet
Being developed


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