Speaking today at the SXSW conference, Google's SVP of Android and Chrome, Sundar Pichai, said that in two weeks, Google will be releasing a developer SDK that will make it easier for companies to create wearable devices that run on Android. Pichai didn't drop any hints as to whether or not Google itself was working on any devices, but instead said that when it comes to wearables, he thinks about it "at a platform level." That means that Google is focusing on the low-level operating-system hooks that are necessary for the sensors in a wearable device to talk to the Android operating system. Focusing on the "platform" is a clever way for Pichai to position Android as a real player in wearables without committing Google to building them itself.
"We've been thinking about wearables."
"We'll lay out a vision for developers as to how we'll see this market working," Pichai said. He noted that he sees a parallel between the evolution of the smartphone ecosystem and the wearables ecosystem. Where smartphones became tiny computers, wearables are becoming nexuses of an array of sensors. Google wants to standardize how those sensors send their data to Android — and that standardization in turn should allow device manufacturers to opt for Android instead of a custom OS. "We want to develop a set of common protocols by which they can work together," Pichai said, "they need a mesh layer and they need a data layer by which they can all come together." So far, we've mostly seen a set of subpar smartwatches running Android, but Pichai said that "when we say wearables, we are thinking much more broadly" than just that. Google is hoping that Android will become a more broadly used embedded OS in lots of different form factors.
Of course, if Google is working to create "the layer which will connect all these devices together" so that other companies can make wearable devices that run on Android, it stands to reason that Google itself could use that same layer on its own device. Rumors of an LG-produced, Google-branded smartwatch have cropped up recently, and though today's news doesn't confirm any of that, it does mean that we're likely going to see more wearables running Android.