The Google Wear operating system could have died slowly for now, if it were not for Fossil Group. In 2016, it was integrated into the smartwatch platform, not only in the Fossil brand, but also in its accessories licenses with a large number of names of designers such as Michael Kors, Emporio Armani, Skagen and Diesel.
That's the news this week that Google is paying $ 40 million for the new smart watch technology, developed by Fossil Group, which is even more intriguing. Fossil has not only succeeded in making Wear OS fashionable, but now also has an impact on future features.
This is good news for Google and its recent history quite interesting with hardware acquisitions. Let's put that $ 40 million in perspective. Google (well, Alphabet) paid $ 3.2 billion for the smart home company Nest in 2014, bought Motorola for $ 12.5 billion in 2012 and then sold it to Lenovo with a gigantic loss of $ 2.9 billion. At the beginning of 2018 he paid $ 1.1 billion from HTC's smartphone team. Get the idea: $ 40 million is peanuts for a company like Alphabet.
Greg McKelvey, executive vice president and director of strategy and digital at Fossil Group, says that smart watch technology has been in development for "several years."
"Fossil Group and Google have been partners for years," he says. "We are deeply integrated as a team and will continue to be in. This agreement reflects our ongoing partnership with Google and our shared investment in the space of portable devices."
However, apart from the size of the transaction, it is how Google treats it. The agreement includes "a part" of the Fossil Group R & D team that moves to Google, with more than 200 remaining, and the mysterious technology will be launched first in the Fossil Group smart watches, through several brands, and then to the extensive Wear OS cohort.
This is not a huge acquisition that could soon become disordered internally: see Nest. Nor does it seem to be simple patent protection, as Motorola does, because who else would make commercial sense for Fossil Group to partner with Google, if not Google? Tizen? Apple? And unlike HTC's design team, where it's unclear how much information they had about Pixel 3, plans have already been made to implement the technology and talent in question. We will not know until this mysterious technology is revealed, but it seems that Google is making a movement of intelligent hardware to reinforce Wear OS: focus on the platform and technology and let your impressive list of fashions and observers do what they do. best.
Do not forget that this is the operating system Wear that left Samsung, Asus, Huawei and Sony, either by their own patented smartwatch operating systems or by any substantial smartwatch strategy. In the case of Sony, he retired to his crazy electronic watch FES Watch. Together with Fossil, brands such as TAG Heuer, Montblanc and Casio have continued to support Wear OS, but none has had a great impact.
"Make no mistake, Fossil plays a key role," says Ramon Llamas, research director of IDC's device and display team. "Wear OS needed a champion, just like any other platform and device category (see Samsung and Android). Because Fossil Group has sub-brands that appeal to a wide audience, such as Kate Spade and Michael Kors for women and Diesel for men, it was able to reach far beyond the technology enthusiast and enter a market segment that was already hungry and he was used to buying. and watch update. And that has been a significant contribution for Google. "
Fossil Group has not published figures on sales of its Wear OS smart watch, but there are some signs that 2018 was the year that its investments began to bear fruit. Michael Kors reported in his earnings call for the quarter until September 29, 2018 that his Access smartwatches "outperformed" his broader segment of watches and jewelry.
The IDC's Quarterly Portable Device Tracker estimates that a total of 4.4 million Smartwatches with a Wear operating system were sold in 2018, compared to Tizen (Samsung) 4m watches and 21.7m Apple watches.
People are very happy to have Google and Samsung in their pocket, in their car, in their home, but the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to our dolls. Apple is the only technology brand with the convenience and design appeal to make a daily smart watch work on a large scale, and even Apple has collaborated on accessories with Hermès and Coach.
A Pixel Watch focused on physical exercise is perhaps what the Internet thinks it wants this week, but what Google needs for SO Wear, more than one device & # 39; killer & # 39; that will disappoint like all wearables before it has done so, is innovation in the form of useful features wrapped in attractive packages. Plural. With this agreement, it seems that Google has relied on this idea, at least when it comes to smart watches. Stacey Burr, vice president of product management for Wear OS, Google, declined to comment for this piece, but a Google spokesperson told us: "This is part of our commitment to the growth of space for portable devices, by putting this innovation available to all our partners ecosystem. "
The best watches for men and women.
"Google has always focused on platforms and services, but it has also had a hand in hardware (see Google Assistant, Pixel and Pixel Buds)," says Llamas. "But first, I think Google needs to have a platform in place before moving to hardware. A big reaction to this was that Google would build a Pixel Watch, something that many in the market have been waiting for. I do not see it that way. In any case, it is a way to develop the platform. "
So, what exactly does Google get for $ 40 million? None of the companies will say, apart from that the technology has "evolved" from the acquisition by Fossil Group of the manufacturer of Misfit activity trackers. That suggests that it is in the health and fitness space. To catch up with the new companies Apple technology, Fitbit and consumer health, this could be anything from the ECG on the wrist, the detection of atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea or non-invasive control of the glucose. The Misfit experience focused on the monitoring of the dream, as well as on the steps, so it could be a real possibility.
However, the addition of built-in GPS and heart rate tracking in 4th generation smart watches from the OS OS of the Fossil Group was a welcome move, but not reliable enough to match the dedicated sports watches. The only other adjustments that have been made in Wear OS over the years have been in the form of micro-applications that include watch faces with the same style in Kate Spade smart watches and Instagram integrations in Michael Kors models. These features have been well designed and compatible, carefully created with the customers of each brand in mind, but they are still minor additions when you walk away and look where the smartwatch and lifestyle technology is going.
"Fossil Group's comments on this new market technology are somewhat cryptic," says Llamas, "and suggests that it could be something else entirely, and that's also good, since the smart watch market is far from mature." .
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