Android's Next Act: Wearable Devices from WIMM - InformationWeek

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Android's Next Act: Wearable Devices from WIMM

Former Intel executive Dave Mooring's new company pushes wearable tech. Are you ready for an Android wrist computer with micro apps?

WIMM One Wearable Platform
(click image for larger view)
WIMM One Wearable Platform
Android devices currently own nearly half the worldwide smartphone market, according to a new study from Canalys, and now a new company called WIMM Labs is betting that wearability is the chocolate to Android's peanut butter. Headed up by former Intel exec Dave Mooring, WIMM is preparing to launch a tiny, wearable computing platform built around Google Android.

In a statement released on the company's website Tuesday, WIMM Labs announced the launch of its wearable computing platform, WIMM One, which it will release to developers in Q3 of this year. The WIMM One Wearable Platform, as it's referred to on the company site, consists of a 1.4-inch touch-sensitive display in an equally compact body designed for integration into wristwatches, keychains, and other small objects. It includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as an accelerometer and a magnetometer for motion tracking.

WIMM One modules will come preloaded with a variety of watch faces and core apps (the company calls them "Micro Apps," suggesting a significant distinction between these and ordinary Android apps). Curiously, despite WIMM One's network connection, the company says managing the device and adding apps will be done "through any desktop or mobile device." While the level of dependency on additional mobile devices is not yet clear, it appears that WIMM devices will connect to smartphones for such things as SMS preview, caller ID, and lost phone warnings.

It's important to note that WIMM One is a platform, not a product. Once the WIMM One Developer Preview Kit ships to developers in the fall, we can look forward to glimpses of actual consumer products. Based on the platform preview video released by WIMM, however, we can reasonably expect to see a bunch of wristwatches in the mix, with a heavy emphasis on fitness and workout apps.

Of course, WIMM is by no means carving out new territory with this platform. The idea of wrist-top computing predates the Dick Tracy comics of the 1930s, and a number of notable tech companies have taken a stab at the concept over the years. The most successful such launch in recent history was Microsoft's SPOT smart-watch line, which lasted from 2004 to 2008, garnering a small, but loyal, following during its short lifespan.

More recently, Apple's iPod Nano has gained popularity as a wearable device, thanks to watchband accessories from companies such as TikTok, HEX, Incase, and iWacthz.

"Wearable computing is nothing new, but has not made it beyond science projects and vertical markets," said Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis. "This still seems niche, but by building it on top of the broad Google Android ecosystem it definitely gives it the potential for broader adoption than past efforts."

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