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Sony Gives Android Wear the Cold Shoulder

Sony Gives Android Wear the Cold Shoulder

Android may rule the smartphone world, but it might not be top dog when it comes to smartwatches. Sony, for one, has decided not to team up with Google and its Android Wear project. Samsung won't use it exclusively -- it's already tinkering with Tizen. "You don't need to use the Android platform as long as you can still interact with it," noted Tirias Research analyst Jim McGregor.

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
03/25/14 1:56 PM PT

It's been just barely a week since Google's Android Wear project made its initial debut, but already one major maker of wearable devices has snubbed the new platform.

Sony this week said it will stick with its own Android-based SmartWatch platform for wearables instead, CNET reported.

Consumer electronics manufacturers including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung have signed on as Android Wear partners, according to Google, as have chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm. The Fossil fashion brand is also on board.

'Less Room for Differentiation'

"It's not too surprising that a company that has invested in its own platform wouldn't be eager to forsake that work in favor of a platform that appears ready to be broadly adopted by a variety of competitors and might leave less room for differentiation," Ross Rubin, a principal analyst with Reticle Research, told LinuxInsider.

"By keeping its own platform, it can perhaps provide tighter integration with other devices it offers that may not use Android," Rubin added -- providing flexibility to work with the iPhone or Sony televisions, for example.

It's still too early to tell whether technical considerations might have played a role in Sony's decision, he pointed out. "We don't yet know about battery life, for example, or maybe some component or functionality Sony had that Android Wear doesn't support."

No 'Fatal Flaw' in Sight

It's worth remembering that while Android Wear's first deliverables promise to be watches, it's a platform for wearables in general, suggesting the possibility of other types of devices as well, Rubin noted.

In any case, Sony's decision doesn't indicate any "fatal flaw" in Google's offering, he opined. "It came out of the gate with very broad support. It's probably more significant that Samsung -- which not only has its own platform but also is supporting an alternative OS -- has signed on."

'You Don't Need to Use Android'

Most wearable and Internet of Things devices will not need a full operating system, "which is why Google has introduced the Wear platform," Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst with Tirias Research, told LinuxInsider.

Indeed, Samsung is planning to use Tizen and other real-time operating systems for this reason, McGregor pointed out.

"You don't need to use the Android platform as long as you can still interact with it," he explained. "It just puts more work on the OEMs and limits the number of third-party apps that will likely be available."

At the same time, "many of these products are not being designed to handle third-party apps -- they will be limited-function devices," McGregor added. So, "using the Google platform is not critical, but it would make it easier if you have not already developed your own platform."

Seeking an Apple-like Advantage

In the big picture, "Sony is trying to transform itself into a mobile-oriented, innovative company like it used to be when it launched the Walkman 35 years ago," Steve Blum, president of Tellus Venture Associates, told LinuxInsider. "That's why they're unloading the Vaio product range."

In order to distinguish itself in the marketplace, Sony will need to "innovate at the operating system level as well as the app and hardware levels," Blum suggested. "Using their own Android adaptation is the way to do that."

Doing so gives Sony the ability to "tie their wearables more closely to their tablets and phones," he pointed out. "If it works, it'll give them the same kind of advantage Apple will have if it ever extends iOS to wearables.

"If it doesn't work," Blum added, "it doesn't matter, because Sony cannot compete as a commodity electronics manufacturer if it still wants to be Sony."


Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered journalist by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.


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