Just in case it wasn't obvious where one of the next great personal computing battles will take place, Google this week made it official: With its new Android Wear platform, it is targeting a new market for "wearables," and is starting with that most familiar of form factors, the watch.
Not surprisingly, this is a market—like tablets—that Microsoft first innovated in over a decade ago. But as with tablets, this time it is the software giant's faster moving competitors that are coming to market with products that look great and could sell well.
"We've barely scratched the surface of what's possible with mobile technology," Google senior VP Sundar Pichai writes in a new post to the Official Android Blog. "That's why we're so excited about wearables. They understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word."
Google's platform for wearables is called Android Wear, a project that (obviously) extends Android to wearables. And the first Android Wear-based devices will of course be a watch. (Anyone remember Microsoft Smart Watch? No. Good, let's move on.) According to Google, this first wearable Android product will offer:
Useful information when you need it most. Android Wear will show you the information and suggestions you need, right when you need them. (Google creepy in action.) There will be posts and updates from favorite social apps, chats from preferred messaging apps, notifications from shopping, news and photography apps, and more, the firm says.
Straight answers to spoken questions. Just say "Ok Google" to ask questions and remember that this will never be problematic out in public. ("How many calories are in an avocado?" "What time is my flight?", etc.). Or say "Ok Google" to get stuff done: Call a taxi, send a text message, set and alarm and so on.
The ability to better monitor your health and fitness. Android-based fitness apps can give you real-time speed, distance and time information on your wrist for your run, cycle or walk.
Entry into a multiscreen world. Android Wear lets you access and control other devices from your wrist. Just say "Ok Google" to fire up a music playlist on your phone, Google suggests, or cast your favorite movie to your TV.
Here's an introductory video.
Google is also offering a developer preview of the Android Wear APIs and tools so you can get started targeting this new platform. These include an Android Wear emulator and two-way connectivity between the emulator and real Android devices so you can test notifications. You can learn more at the Android Wear Developer Preview site. Here's another video describing the developer stuff.