UPDATE 4-Google takes consumers' wrists to next frontier with Android watch

Tue Mar 18, 2014 7:34pm EDT
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By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO, March 18 (Reuters) - Voice-controlled smartwatches that track heart rates and connect to phones and tablets will debut later this year as Google Inc partners with electronics, technology and fashion companies to take consumers to the next promised frontier in computing.

Google on Tuesday unveiled plans to help develop the watches and other wearable computers based on its Android mobile operating system, which already runs more than three out of four smartphones sold worldwide.

The Android Wear project is open to software makers to create apps for the watches, putting Google at the forefront of efforts to jumpstart the nascent wearable computing market.

The news comes as speculation swirls around iPhone-maker Apple Inc's plans for wearable computers, including a smartwatch of its own. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has promised new "product categories" later this year.

A video posted on Google's blog on Tuesday showed people speaking into their watches to check sports scores, control music, send replies to text messages and even open their home garages.

By aligning itself with a broad spectrum of partners to develop the smartwatches, Google is hoping to replicate the success that helped make its free Android software the most popular smartphone operating system, analysts said.

LG Electronics said on Tuesday it would introduce its first Android watch, the G Watch, in the second quarter. Motorola said its Moto 360 Android watch would be available this summer. Fossil Group Inc, which makes watches, handbags and other accessories, also announced that it was working with Google on Android devices.   Continued...