Google’s Android software, the most widely used smartphone operating system, is making the leap to rice cookers and refrigerators as manufacturers vie to dominate the market for gadgets controlled via the internet.
Android-based products ranging from Royal Philips Electronics’ PicoPix pocket projector and LG Electronics’ Smart Thinq refrigerators to Parrot’s Asteroid car stereo systems and Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy camera will be on display this week at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show to be held in Las Vegas.
Extending its free operating system to new devices could let Google collect more data to build its lucrative search business and outrun software rivals Microsoft and Apple.
“Android is sitting pretty in this space to take more share from the incumbents,” said analyst Al Hilwa at International Data Corporation (IDC). “The fundamental advantage with Android is that the vendor can take a bigger chunk of the software and own it.”
Since the first Android-based cellphones went on sale in 2008, devices based on the mobile operating system have surged in popularity. Smartphones running the software held 72 percent of the market in the third quarter, while Apple had 14 percent, according to Gartner.
Building Android directly into devices can make it easier for electronic equipment and appliances to exchange information with less human intervention.
A television, for example, might show a pop-up message from a clothes dryer in the basement, indicating that the homeowner’s jeans are not yet dry.
The user could press a button on the television remote to automatically add 15 minutes to the dryer cycle. A connected rice cooker could determine what type of rice is being used and set cooking instructions accordingly.
Making more intelligent, connected appliances and electronics has been a goal of manufacturers for years.
And recent efforts to broaden Android beyond phones and computers have not all panned out. Google tried to push into the living room via its Google TV product. The decoders and software for televisions made by Sony and Logitech International did not meet sales goals after their introduction in 2010.
LG, Hisense Electric and Vizio plan to demonstrate models with an updated version of Android for televisions in Las Vegas.
This time will be different, manufacturers say.
Companies are competing to develop operating systems that can span a variety of devices and attract a loyal base of developers and consumers.
The market for so-called intelligent systems, or devices capable of receiving and transmitting over the internet, will double to almost 4 billion units in 2015 from more than 1.8 billion units and more than $1 trillion (about R8.5 trillion) in revenue in 2011, according to research firm IDC.
The market now is fragmented among more than 30 software makers, including QNX Software Systems and companies’ home-grown development efforts.
“The Android circle is getting bigger,” Android founder Andy Rubin said in May. “Everything should be Androidified – is that the word?”
Android’s proliferation offered broader access to hundreds of downloadable applications developed specifically for web-connected gear, letting electronics makers create a family of products that could exchange information, said Frederic Albinet, the marketing manager at Parrot, which began selling its $600 Asteroid Smart car system in October last year.
“There are many apps in the Android Marketplace we get access to, and our Asteroid developers have an operating system that everyone’s becoming familiar with,” he said. – Bloomberg