Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) will be announcing its plans for a smartwatch-focused operating system in March with a blog post, according to CNET’s Roger Cheng. Google is expected to release a smartwatch sometime in the next year, along with a version of Google Glass for consumers.
The Google Smartwatch is said to heavily feature the use of Google Now for search and notifications, much like Glass. Cheng’s report is the first news to break on the product since the Wall Street Journal reported in October that it was in “late-stage development," and the company was in discussions with suppliers in Asia.
UPDATE: Photos of a Nexus "Gem" prototype smartwatch, made by Motorola, have surfaced online. The prototype was scrapped -- likely when Google decided it would partner with LG for the device. Click here for the rest of the story.
The Journal reported at the time that the Google smartwatch would run the Android operating system, but it appears that the company is instead building a scaled-down OS specifically for the watch, instead of a version of Android or the Chrome OS. Samsung similarly appointed its Samsung Gear 2 with its own Tizen OS.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company will introduce the smartwatch at Google I/O, the company’s annual conference for software developers.
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The Google smartwatch will be made in a manner similar to Nexus smartphones and tablets, where the company’s services and branding are highlighted instead of the manufacturer. The Nexus Gem, as it is rumored to be called, is likely to connect with smartphones like the LG Nexus 5 and rumored Nexus 6, and work alongside other non-Nexus branded Android devices.
Google Now integration will be a focus of the smartwatch; the intelligent personal assistant predicts what a user needs based on where they are and what they are doing, like offering real-time notifications about flight status and QR-based boarding passes it pulls from an airline’s confirmation email. Google Now also answers questions and makes predictions and suggestions based on personal data.
Google last year used Bluetooth Smart, or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity for battery-friendly smartwatch notifications. By offering Google Now intelligence, much as the service is implemented on the Google Glass headset, the company aims to offer a more full-featured wearable experience with the device than competing devices from Samsung, Apple and others.
If the Nexus Gem follows the pricing scheme of the Nexus 5 and the Nexus 4 before it, Google will also offer its smartwatch at a lower cost than competitors. A version bundled with a possible Nexus 6, like how Samsung bundled the original Galaxy Gear with the Note 3, could also lift the company’s growing handset sales.
TechCrunch offered a contrary report this weekend that said the Google smartwatch could be released as early as March, or as late as June – in time for Google I/O. The report said early prototypes looked similar to the Pebble Steel, with a metal band and full-color square watch face, but the Google smartwatch probably will ship with a plastic band and colored LCD screen. To navigate the prototype, the site said, Google developed a series of swipe and tap gestures.
The conflicting reports about the release date for Google's smartwatch mean that while details are still murky, the company intends to make its way to users' wrists sometime this year.
Follow Reporter Thomas Halleck on Twitter @tommylikey.