With today's announcement of the Android Wear platform for wearables, much of the discussion has revolved around how Google is following the Android smartphone playbook and focusing on creating an ecosystem that can accommodate multiple manufacturers, with a range of products with different price points and feature sets. And Google has lined up an impressive list of partners, including smartphone makers HTC, LG and Motorola; chipmaker and smartwatch-wannabe Qualcomm; and watchmaker Fossil. Even Samsung, which just last month held a splashy launch for its latest round of Gear smartwatches, is in on the game.
... Google doesn't see wearable devices as full-fledged computers or smartphone replacements.
Those partnerships instantly make Android Wear a major platform in this nascent category. However, what's most interesting about Google's approach isn't the business model, which isn't that different from Microsoft's SPOT platform of a decade ago. What matters most about Android Wear is Google's approach to the category. Unlike, say, Samsung, which initially marketed Galaxy Gear as the real-life successor to Dick Tracy's wrist communicator, Google doesn't see wearable devices as full-fledged computers or smartphone replacements. They're designed to help you get snippets of crucial information -- like the weather, your flight status or whether there's a jellyfish warning in effect for your beach -- when you need them most, and then allow you to get on with the rest of your life.