The emergence of Google Glass made it clear that Google is keen to get into wearable computing, and an announcement yesterday by Android head Sundar Pichai makes it clear that the company doesn’t really care how that happens, as long as it still has a hand in the nascent market.
Speaking at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, Pichai said Google will offer a software development kit in two weeks that will let third-party developers use Android to run their wearable devices. The move is much more likely than Glass to make wearable devices part of the average person’s daily life, since it will allow developers to use the SDK to create all kinds of sensor-laden gadgets–smart watches, clothing, earrings, whatever–on their own timelines and budgets and with their own sense of style (Glass, on the other hand, costs $1,500, is extremely obvious-looking, finnicky, and still not publicly available.)
Google already did this kind of thing once with smartphones: Android arrived in 2008 and was the only OS aside from Apple’s iOS that managed to expand and capture a huge chunk of the market. With Google’s existing expertise in mobile software and developers’ familiarity with Android, a wearable SDK would require relatively little investment for a potentially big payoff if wearable gadgets grow as expected over the next several years (and this makes it even more likely that more developers will try their hand at making wearables, since many are already familiar with Android).
Reportedly, Pichai didn’t mention if Google is building any of its own non-Glass wearables with the SDK, but I’m willing to bet one of my plastic Android toys that, beyond its experimental contact-lens project computer project, there are some things in the pipeline (a smart watch has long been expected, at least, and could be revealed at the company’s next developer conference in June).