The Android invasion: Google launches ‘Things’ spinoff to put its software in gadgets from fridges and speakers to vending machines

  • Move could bring Google Assistant virtual helper to dozens of new places
  • Aimed at everything from fridges and robots to registers and vending machines

Reuters

Alphabet Inc’s Google has launched a spinoff of its Android operating system for home appliances and other machines, following mixed results with Android offshoots for cars, smartwatches and televisions.

‘Android Things’, which arrives as Google opens its annual conference for developers, could bring its Google Assistant virtual helper to refrigerators and robots and familiar designs to cash registers and vending machines.

‘The goal is to enable them to be built faster, cheaper and more secure,’ said Venkat Rapaka, a product management director at Google.

Google has struggled to extend Android's dominance into other areas over the last four years, technology and financial analysts said

Google has struggled to extend Android’s dominance into other areas over the last four years, technology and financial analysts said

WHAT GADGETS DOES GOOGLE HOPE THINGS WILL RUN ON? 

 Over the past several months, Google says it has worked closely with partners to bring products built on Android Things to market. 

These include Smart Speakers from LG and iHome and Smart Displays from Lenovo, LG, and JBL, which showcase powerful capabilities like Google Assistant and Google Cast. 

These products are hitting shelves between now and the end of summer.

Startups and agencies are also using Android Things to prototype innovative ideas for a diverse set of use-cases, including health monitoring gadgets and smart billboard screens. 

Android derivatives aim to provide users with a consistent interface across devices, while Google and its business partners benefit from a standard way to distribute their applications.

Though Google does not charge hardware manufacturers for Android, it expects to generate a return as consumers use new gadgets to use search, watch videos on YouTube and buy content from its Play Store.

The Android operating system powers many of the world’s smartphones and drives consumers to Google’s cash-minting apps.

But Google has struggled to extend Android’s dominance into other areas over the last four years, technology and financial analysts said.

‘If you’re charitable, you say it’s early,’ said Richard Kramer of Arete Research. ‘If you’re not, you say Android is irrelevant outside phones.’

Android Automotive is not yet deeply embedded in any cars. 

Shipments of smartwatches with Google’s Wear OS were outnumbered five-to-one by rival Apple Inc devices last year, according to research firm IDC. 

Four times as many smart TV shipments last year had Samsung’s operating system as Android TV, according to IHS Markit.

In each category, Google’s Android system posted less market share last year than manufacturer-customized Android variants, which are less fruitful for Google because they typically are not pre-loaded or compatible with its apps.

Android variants thrive in China, where Google does not operate.

Though Google does not charge hardware manufacturers for Android, it expects to generate a return as consumers use new gadgets to use search, watch videos on YouTube and buy content from its Play Store.

Though Google does not charge hardware manufacturers for Android, it expects to generate a return as consumers use new gadgets to use search, watch videos on YouTube and buy content from its Play Store.

Though Google does not charge hardware manufacturers for Android, it expects to generate a return as consumers use new gadgets to use search, watch videos on YouTube and buy content from its Play Store.

Google also has been slowed by resistance from carmakers to hand over a key interface, smartwatches from consumer electronics brands that failed to attract mass appeal and TV software that manufacturers found too rigid, analysts said.

Google officials said the spinoffs have momentum. 

Activations of Wear OS devices rose 70 percent late last year compared to the year-earlier period. 

Android TV activations doubled last year compared to the year before, while vehicles with Android embedded should arrive next year, company officials told Reuters.

Sundar Pichai of Google will tomorrow open its annual conference for developers

Sundar Pichai of Google will tomorrow open its annual conference for developers

Sundar Pichai of Google will tomorrow open its annual conference for developers

South Asia and Latin America are bright spots, they said. Android TV had ‘tremendous traction over the last year’ from Asian cable and satellite operators seeking it for set-top boxes, said Google product management director Shalini Govil-Pai.

Android Automotive was gaining attention from Indian automakers and from Brazil, said Patrick Brady, a Google engineering vice president.

Android Things competes with Amazon.com Inc’s Greengrass system and Microsoft’s Windows IoT.

Google says it will guarantee three years of free security patches to hardware makers and paid extended options. It is also considering automated security scans of device makers’ apps.

Health technology startup Byteflies, an Android Things tester, said it viewed the system’s optional integration with Google’s cloud computing service and the large Android developer community as big advantages.

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