BARCELONA, Spain--Google and LG are about to jump into the smartwatch game together.
Google is set to unveil plans for its smartwatch-centric operating system in March, likely in a blog post, according to a person familiar with its plans. The actual smartwatch itself will make its debut at its Google I/O conference in June, the person said.
With its smartwatch, Google will employ a Nexus-like model in which it designs the software and controls virtually every aspect of the launch, leaving the hardware details to a partner who takes a backseat in terms of visibility. In this case, LG is the manufacturing partner, following up on two successful partnerships with the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 smartphone.
Google is just the latest company jumping into an area where there's rabid interest but few sales so far. But there's a reason wearables have drawn the attention of tech companies: the market is estimated to be worth $19 billion by 2018, according to Juniper Research.
Google will pin its smartwatch-centric operating system on its Google Now voice assistant and search feature, which also drives the core functions of its Google Glass headwear.
For now, sales of smartwatches haven't exactly been impressive. The common complaints are that they are too bulky, or don't do enough, and often do work as a fashion accessory. It remains to be seen if Google's take will address some of those issues and buck that trend.
The other big name in the business, Samsung, made its big push late last year with the Galaxy Gear. It introduced two successor devices in the Gear 2 and Gear Neo, which were unveiled earlier today. Unlike the original Gear, which ran on Google's Android operating system, the Gear 2 and Gear Neo run on Tizen, an OS that Samsung has had a large part in developing.
There are a number of other players in this category. Sony has been in the smartwatch area even longer -- although it hasn't been particularly successful -- while there are also a number of niche players such as Pebble making a name for in this area.
Apple is widely believed to be introducing its own smartwatch -- perhaps later this year -- so many companies have been scrambling to get ahead of that announcement. HTC has also said it plans to create smartwatches that it will likely unveil later this year.
Google's planned smartwatch rounds out a wide portfolio of products that it is directly selling through its Google Play store, making it more of a destination for hot tech gadgets. There is, of course, Google Glass, its other big push in the wearables arena, as well as its Nexus phones and a number of other high-profile smartphones running on pure Android and labeled as "Google Play Edition" devices.
It's just the latest evidence that Google is more than a simple "search" company and is looking to go toe-to-toe with the best consumer electronic players.
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