The market for watches isn’t like the market for phones. It’s largely driven by fashion and taste; just look at Apple’s hiring and PR drive if you want proof of that. And that means lots of choice for the customer, not just in terms of colour, shape and material, but brands too. The future of smart watches doesn’t end with a handful of dominant players.
To an extent Apple realises this. It’s customisable bracelets are evidently an attempt to woo third party designers; to build and ecosystem of accessories around their watches in the same way they have done so successfully with their phones and tablets.
The open nature of Google’s Android Wear however, will be its silver bullet.
For decades big fashion houses, and many of the premium watch brands for that matter, have been happy to rely on third party technology to power their wristwatches. Successful movements like those from ETA - which is owned by Swatch - are in countless time pieces. Just like their customers the fashion house doesn’t really care about the complication, the quality of the escapement or gear train. They care about how it looks: the shape of the face, whether it uses Arabic or Roman numerals, the style of clasp. Apple isn’t about to let Michael Kors determine all this, but Google certainly will.
While most of the world owns either a Samsung or Apple phone, when the market for smart watches gets up to speed we will be left with hundreds of brands. Hardware manufacturers, LG is a great example, will be happy to help brands such as Armarni make their own smart watches, hell it won’t be too long until one of the classic watch makers is in on the act too - my money is on Breitling.
Hundreds of brands, a few manufacturers, and only two operating systems. Trouble is, one of those keeps everything in house.
Google is positioned to become the ETA movement of the smart watch generation. But while most people have no idea what is powering their mechanical watch, they won’t be able to avoid the presence Android Wear. And with that comes a greater awareness of Android phones, of Google services and more data for Google to harvest and use to its advantage.
Apple is about to make 2015 the year of the smart watch, but Google will be the company that really benefits from its rise.