Where Apple goes, others soon will follow. Just days after making its big smartwatch reveal, Google has forged a partnership with Intel and Swiss watch designer Tag Heuer for a luxury smartwatch of their own.
Tag Heuer announced the partnership with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) at the big Baselworld watch trade show in Switzerland on Thursday. The trio plan to launch the device at the end of the year, powered by an Intel chipset and running Google's wearable operating system, Android Wear. It didn't reveal any details about pricing or design.
Like Apple, Tag Heuer didn't announce any plans for operator involvement, suggesting it's likely to rely on Bluetooth and WiFi for its connectivity. (See Apple Watch Has No Time for Operators.)
Google is already on board for a number of watches, including the Motorola 360. Market researchers at Canalys.com Ltd. says about 720,000 Android Wear-powered watches were shipped in 2014. Intel competitor Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) has also tried its hand at smartwatches, making its own Toq prototype that it said was intended to jumpstart others into making watches using its chipsets. (See Qualcomm to Offer Toq Smartwatch and Slide Show: Moto Mobility's New Chicago Digs.)
I have a black, diamond-studded watch that I wear because I like the style of it. When asked what time it is, however, I pull out my phone because the watch hasn't kept time in two years. It's just jewelry at this point. At the same time, I've also purchased two FitBit-esque fitness-tracking devices in the past two years that I've worn and loved for three months and then relegated them to a drawer, never to count a step again.
I'm telling you this not to point out how lazy and superficial I am, but because I don't think I'm atypical. Watches that look like smartphones, or are solely geared toward fitness tracking, are probably only going to take off amongst a niche of tech-loving early adopters. For smartwatches to go mainstream, they need to look like watches and act like watches, not like smartphones that are boxy and need constant charging and software updates.
They also need to be generally affordable and, in time, it's likely that other companies will enter the market, competition will intensify, components will become cheaper and the price will drop far enough to make this a wearable device market to watch (sorry).
I'm confident we'll see more watch makers join forces with Android, and the market bifurcate between Android watches and the one Apple watch, much like what happened with smartphones. Strategy Analytics Inc. agrees -- it forecasts that global smartwatch shipments will grow 511% from 4.6 million units in 2014 to 28.1 million in 2015, with Apple making up 55% of the market.
Ultimately, this growth and the fact that traditional watch makers, not just mobile phone manufacturers, are getting in on the trend will be good for consumers as there will be a watch for everyone -- from those who want to quietly tell people how hip (and rich, in some cases) they are when they shake hands, to those who are in for the technology, to those who just want to know what time it is.
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading