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Google wearables: A solution looking for a rich nerd

Some revolutions never happen. This might be one of them

Sergey Brin Project Glass

+Analysis If you've spent any time looking at transport technology - how cars and trains got here - you've got a head start over most VCs and pundits in understanding wearable computing. I'll explain why.

Google's Android Wear is the biggest deal in wearable computing since Microsoft's abortive SPOT 12 years ago.

And Google hasn't waited for technology to get smaller or better or cheaper - it's forging ahead, creating a platform while others hesitate. It wants to tame the Wild West that is wearable computing today - or, more accurately, own it. So instead of "inventing" wearable computing, Apple will now be obliged to "re-invent" it. And looking at the developer documentation, Google's done a nice job.

But the really big questionmarks over this market haven't yet been addressed. Beyond the fitness/health niches, all the general purpose wearables today are really a consumer "solution" looking for a problem. The benefits (current and future) accrue entirely to the manufacturer. They get more data about us in their vast data warehouses, or increase their footprint in areas which might be useful in the future, such as home automation. This is all still technology push.

What's in it for us?

No doubt it's good for Google, as the world's largest personal data collector, for us all to convert to Android Wear. It will be another gold mine for the spooks. The data industry finds another part of the analog world to record and analyse. But there's no sign of any significant demand, or pull.

That's because the wearables today simply don't add much convenience to our lives - but still incur a add a considerable cost and inconvenience of their own. Give me a wearable that I didn't ever have to recharge, or only needed to recharge once a month, that cost under £20, and that gave reliable notifications of calls or messages received on my phone, and instantly gave me a zoomable map - and maybe then we're talking.

Has Google solved any of this with Android Wear? Well, look at the video - and you tell me.

In this 90-second video, you will see a smartphone just once. At 10 seconds in, somebody is looking at a phone as they board a bus. (Is it a Google Bus, about to be overturned by anti-capitalist protestors? We never find out).

The most striking thing in this phone-less imaginary world is how much convenience the Android Wear watch offers over having No Phone. But how little it offers to anyone already carrying a phone - especially carrying one in their hand.

These are what people in the video use their Wear device to do: receive traffic info, receive weather info, an electronic boarding pass, send a text message, ID music, and open a garage door. How many of these applications or services were touted by Microsoft for SPOT 12 years ago? Almost all of them. How many are not in smartphone apps we already use daily? Possibly the garage door. That's it.

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