Google’s Android Wear Smartwatch Software: An Interesting, Unfinished Idea

Even if you like this concept, waiting makes sense
Samsung's Gear Live smartwatch

Samsung’s Gear Live smartwatch

Some product categories are easy to review. Smartphones? Until something comes along which redefines them as radically as the first iPhone did in 2007, it’s pretty obvious how to judge them, because there’s a general consensus on what sort of capabilities such a gadget should have.

Not so, however, with smartwatches.

Sure, scads of tiny computers you wear on your wrist have been released over the past couple of years, but the industry is still thrashing out what’s important: what features a smartwatch should have, what technologies it should use, what tradeoffs it should make involving size, weight, and battery life.

No two models reflect the same vision. And if you’re not yet convinced that the world needs smartwatches at all, you’re not alone.

With new smartwatches based on Google’s Android Wear software, however, the vision is pretty clear. Android Wear is all about rolling notifications from smartphone apps and features from Google’s excellent Google Now information service into a form which you can check without fumbling for your smartphone. (Google says that typical Android phone owners check their phones 125 times a day.)

The concept makes sense to me–not as an epoch-shifting gadget in the tradition of the PC, smartphone, and tablet, but at least as a worthy phone accessory for busy geeks. Judging from my time with it so far, though, the reality doesn’t yet live up to its potential.

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This Just In: Apple Hiring a Swiss Watch Salesman Has Nothing to Do With the iWatch’s Country of Origin

Swiss watchWhen I read reports on unannounced Apple products, I often come away confused–but I don’t think it’s because I’m a numbskull.

Case in point: CNBNC has a story up by Jenny Cosgrave reporting that Apple has hired an unnamed sales director from Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer as it gets ready to roll out the wearable gizmo which Cosgrave, and most everybody else, is calling the iWatch.

(Update: 9toMac’s Mark Gurman reports that the TAG salesguy in question is Patrick Pruniaux, VP of sales and marketing.)

Fine. Interesting scoop. But here’s the part where I get confused:

Apple’s plans to hire Swiss watch experts are an attempt to market its product as “Swiss made”, which senior luxury goods analyst at Bernstein, Mario Ortelli, said is a label that is synonymous with quality when it comes to watches.

Um, hiring a sales director from a Swiss company doesn’t mean your watch is Swiss made. Actually, hiring an infinite number of employees of Swiss watch companies wouldn’t let you make that claim. Unless those employees stay in Switzerland and, you know, make your device. I can’t imagine why anyone would believe otherwise.

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Hey, I’m Joining Fast Company!

A few words about what's next for me and this site

Fast CompanyJust over a month ago, I resigned from my job at TIME and rebooted this website. I wrote at the time that I didn’t expect to do Technologizer full-time indefinitely–which was another way of saying that I was looking for my next big opportunity as a technology journalist.

I’m happy to say I’ve found it: On July 21, I will join Fast Company as technology editor.

Why Fast Company? Well, I’ve been a fan since its first issue appeared almost two decades ago. But what I’m excited about is its future.

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This New Google Project Proves Humans Are Better at Animation Than Computers Are

Sorry, Android L, Android Wear, and Android Auto: This may be the best thing which got announced at I/O.

I had a good time attending Google I/O, but I somehow missed out on the premiere at the conference of something which means a lot to me: Duet, a new short film by Disney veteran Glen Keane, one of the finest animators of the past forty years.

Fortunately, I just caught up with it on YouTube:

The movie is part of Google’s “Spotlight Stories” project, and will be available in an interactive mobile version for Android phones later this year. But the thing which makes it interesting and moving isn’t the technology: It’s the fact that it consists of a series of drawings by a human being who happens to be a master draftsman, rather than the digital stop-motion puppetry that is computer animation.

Keane may have used more modern tools than his counterparts at Disney did in the 1930s and 1940s, but the basics of his craft haven’t changed at all.

There’s lots of computer animation I like, and some I just love–but the medium has a long way to go until it can match the charm, grace, and emotional depth of something like this. How said it would be if traditional animation–which is clearly an endangered artform–ever goes away altogether.


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10 Observations About Google’s I/O Keynote

One of many giant Androids towering over the human attendees at Google I/O at San Francisco's Moscone Center

One of many giant Androids towering over the human attendees at Google I/O at San Francisco’s Moscone Center

If you’re looking for a good straightforward recap of the news which Google made during its I/O keynote on Wednesday morning, stop reading this post. Instead, head over to Mat Honan’s fine summary over at Wired. And then, if you’re still interested in the topic, come back here for my initial musings.

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Amazon’s Fire Phone is One Tough Phone to Figure Out

Things that are different have a tendency to confuse people
Jeff Bezos brandishes Amazon's Fire Phone at a media event in Seattle on June 18, 2014

Jeff Bezos brandishes the Fire Phone at Amazon’s media event in Seattle on June 18, 2014

Week before last, Jeff Bezos sent journalists who had been invited to the company’s media event a copy of his favorite childhood book: Leonard Kessler’s Mr. Pine’s Purple House. Mr. Pine painted his home purple so it would stand out from his neighbors’ houses; Bezos included a note alluding to the world “being a better place when things are a bit different.”

As expected, the news at the media event was the launch of Amazon’s first smartphone, the Fire Phone. In multiple ways, it is indeed a purple house–a phone which strives to carve off a distinct niche for itself rather than match what Apple and makers of Android phones are doing.

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Sorry, Everybody, Your Feelings About the iWatch Are Meaningless

Piper Jaffray recently conducted a survey about consumer sentiments towards wearable devices–including the “Apple iWatch” which, it now seems certain, will be released later this year. As Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports, 36 percent of respondents would pay between $100 and $200 for the iWatch, 14 percent would pay $350, and 14 percent wouldn’t buy one at any price. DeWitt says that those numbers prompted the author of Piper Jaffray’s study to estimate that Apple could sell between five and ten million iWatches in the device’s first year on the market.

Can we just say it? Research of this type doesn’t tell us anything worth knowing about Apple’s device and how well it might sell, because the survey respondents who said they would or wouldn’t buying it were expressing opinions based on insufficient information.

Even if you’re paying really close attention to rumors about Apple’s wearables–such as these ones and these ones–you know very little about the device, in part because rumors can be false, and in part because scuttlebutt about specs tells you virtually nothing about what the experience of using an iWatch might be like. And the respondents to Piper Jaffray’s survey presumably aren’t maniacally refreshing MacRumors and AppleInsider to stay on top of the latest news.

Even after a company announces a product, gut instincts about it don’t tell you all that much. Especially when the company in question is Apple, which has a better track record of redefining categories than any of its competitors, in ways that can be difficult to understand at first. Recall, if you will, the reception that the iPhone got after Steve Jobs unveiled it in January of 2007: It wasn’t the least bit difficult to find people who thought it would flop.

In a rational world, 100 percent of the people who Piper Jaffray asked about their iWatch-buying intentions would have answered “How the hell should I know at this point?” They didn’t. So it’s incumbent on us to remember that none of us know enough about Apple’s wearable to form opinions about it–including whether we want one.


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“Works With Nest” Lets Nest’s Smart Devices Talk to Cars, Appliances, Wearables, Remotes, and More

Nest

So far, Google’s Nest Labs home automation arm makes two smart, web-enabled devices: the Nest thermostat and Nest Protect smoke/CO detector. The count will go to three when the company finalizes its agreement to acquire the startup behind the Dropcam security camera.

Those products, of course, are outnumbered by vast and growing quantities of smart-home hardware and software created by other companies. And from now on, some of the most interesting things which Nest’s devices do may be actions they perform in concert with third-party gear.

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Microsoft’s Online Storage Curveball: Office 365 Now Comes With a Terabyte of OneDrive

Comparing the new plans to Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, and others

Microsoft OneDriveStarting shortly, Microsoft is upgrading the storage plans it offers for OneDrive, the online storage service formerly known as SkyDrive. You’ll get 15GB of space for free, which the company says is enough for 75 percent of users to store all the files on their PC in the cloud. (Until now, freeloaders have received a base allotment of 7GB.) Paid OneDrive tiers will offer 100GB for $1.99 a month or 200GB for $3.99 a month, a 70 percent reduction from previous pricing.

All of this is nice, but hardly surprising: It’s unquestionably a response to the similar moves which Google made with Google Drive back in March.

But Microsoft has another piece of OneDrive news which is at least a trifle startling–and which nobody else can quite match. The company is radically increasing the amount of storage it bundles with the consumer-oriented versions of Office 365, the subscription-based version of the Office productivity suite.

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After Forty-Seven Years, Computerworld, Tech Publishing’s Elder Statesman, is a Print Publication No More

ComputerworldWhen IDG’s Computerworld launched, with an issue cover-dated June 14, 1967, it declared itself to be the “first newspaper for the full computer community.” I have no reason to believe that was an inaccurate claim. And if there’s an older publication devoted to computing which still exists in print form, I don’t know about it.

But Computerworld‘s long, long run in dead-tree form is ending. As editor-in-chief Scot Finnie writes, it will publish its last print edition next week, almost exactly 47 years after the first one appeared. The brand will live on as a website, of course, and as a monthly digital magazine.

The news comes three months after the passing of Pat McGovern, who started IDG in 1964 as a research firm and put out Computerworld with a tiny staff in its earliest days. It’s sad to think of IDG losing its founder and flagship print publication so close together, but in a way, it’s also fitting.

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