In a Move That Threatens Partnership with Samsung, Google Acquires Smartwatch Designer
SAN FRANCISCO – Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) recently announced that it had acquired smartwatch designer WIMM Labs. The acquisition was seen as an effort to heat up competition in the wearable-computing market. While the company did not provide details of the acquisition, it noted that the deal was completed in 2012 – an odd move as it would appear the company wanted to keep the deal a secret while other companies where in the process of developing their smartwatches.
WIMM Labs, is based on Los Altos, California, had previously unveiled smartwatch designs that included a full-color touch screen, internet access, and sensors for tracking the owner’s motions. Wimm had already received funding from Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (Taiwan:2317), the flagship company of Foxconn Technology Group – makers of the iPhone and other consumer electronic devices. Wimm’s management team had included former executives from Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) and Apple.
The announcement comes as rivals Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (KS:005930) are also working on smartwatches and Google has been working on the highly anticipated release of its ‘Glass’ device. Google made no official announcement about plans for a smartwatch.
Some analysts believe the acquisition could spell the end of Google’s long association with Samsung as Google is slowly establishing a range of devices that will interconnect with their smartphones. In this environment, the smartphone is set to act as a personal server that will coordinate with other devices such as Google Glass.
The importance of the Google Smartwatch is that it given clarity to Google’s long-term strategy, which it wants to be a full-fledged hardware company similar to Apple. The result is that Google will end up competing with former partners like Samsung – the major user of Google’s Android Operating System. In the past, Google has designed the software, and Samsung had provided the devices. For Samsung, the moves beg the question of how quickly they can reduce their dependence on Android, or how it can divert app revenues from Google Play to the Samsung App Store.
In other Google news, reports emerged last week about a love triangle involving Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, and Hugo Barra, an Android executive who announced the same day that he would leave the company for a rival phone maker in China. The tech blog, AllThingsD, reported that Brin has separated from his wife, Anne Wojcicki, and has begun dating a Google employee who was previously in a relationship with Barra. The news sent waves through Silicone Valley, and the loss of Barra was noticeable as he was one of the most public faces of Android. Company representatives refused to comment on the story.