Google sets sights on TVs, cars, and watches beyond smartphones
By Alexei Oreskovic - SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) Google Inc’s Android software is coming to cars, televisions, and watches this year, as the Internet search giant races against Apple Inc and other tech companies to extend its business into a rapidly broadening field of Internet-connected devices.
At its annual developers’ conference on Wednesday, Google said the first cars running Android Auto software for navigation, music and messaging will hit showrooms later this year. Samsung and LG smartwatches running Android Wear, the version of Android tailored for wearable devices, go on sale later Wednesday.
Google mentioned that more than 40 auto companies had signed onto its software development alliance, but did not say which ones will build Android Auto into their cars this year.
Executives demonstrated how Android TV, reviving Google’s foray into streaming video, aims to give viewers an easy interface through which to search for and display content. TV version of Android comes four years after Google's first effort to enter the living room, via Google TV, failed to catch on with consumers.
"It’s a land grab," said Sameet Sinha, an analyst with investment bank B. Riley & Co. "The person who gets a platform which controls the devices could be the dominant operating system, not of just devices, it could be the operating system of your home."
"New platforms offer new opportunities for hardware sales, advertising sales, e-commerce sales, all of these," Sinha said.
Google’s free Android software is used in more than three out of every four smartphones sold globally, a valuable entry point for consumers to access its money-making online services such as Web search and maps.
The company could also unveil a new service later on Wednesday that tracks a user’s health and personal fitness information, similar to recently introduced services from Apple and Samsung, said a person familiar with the matter before the conference but was not authorized to divulge details ahead of the event.
Among the events aimed at developers during the conference at San Francisco's Moscone Center are sessions titled "Wearable computing with Google" and "Build for the multi-device Web,” according to the official Google I/O website.
There will also be sessions focused on Nest Labs, the maker of smart thermostats and other home appliances which Google acquired for $3.2 billion ($1.89 billion) in January. On Monday, Nest said it would for the first time allow other companies to create apps that communicate with its devices.
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Bernard Orr)
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