Androidified [Times of Oman]
(Times of Oman Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) 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 NV's PicoPix pocket projector and LG Electronics' Smart Thinq refrigerators to Parrot's Asteroid car stereo systems and Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Camera were on display at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Extending its free operating system to new devices could let Google collect more data to build its lucrative search business and one-up software rivals Microsoft and Apple.
Android also is an easy to use platform that helps appliance makers like Samsung and Philips add product features and benefit from demand for Internet-connected devices a market IDC predicts will reach more than $2 trillion in 2015.
"Android is sitting pretty in this space to take more share from the incumbents," said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. "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 phones went on sale in 2008, devices based on the mobile operating system have surged in popularity. Smartphones running the software held 72 per cent of the market in the third quarter, while Apple had 14 per cent, according to Gartner.Intelligent systems
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 TV 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 haven't all panned out.Google tried to push into the
living room via its Google TV product. The set-top boxes and software for televisions made by Sony and Logitech International didn't meet sales goals after their introduction in 2010. Fragmented market
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 four billion units in 2015 from more than 1.8 billion units and more than $1 trillion in revenue in 2011, according to 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 at a press conference. "Everything should be Androidified is that the word "Smartphone-controlled
Android's proliferation offers broader access to hundreds of downloadable applications developed specifically for Web connected gear, letting electronics makers create a family of products that can exchange information, said Frederic Albinet, marketing manager at Parrot, which began selling its $600 Asteroid Smart car system in October. "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.
Last year in Japan, Panasonic began selling a range of home appliances, from microwaves to air conditioners, that can be controlled by smartphones while providing information to users.
Its $600 Android controlled SR-SX2 rice cooker lets users search for recipes on their Android phones and then transmit them to the cooker. It also provides information such as how much electricity it has used.
The company's NR series refrigerator counts the number of times that the door has been open and closed in order to make it run more efficiently, and it displays instructions on how to fix problems when they occur. Samsung and LG, two of the earliest adopters of Android in smartphones, have begun integrating the software into cameras and appliances to stimulate sales in markets that haven't been growing rapidly.Support needed
While Android's free software allows for easy adoption, device makers may have to do more work than they would with software bought from a company like Microsoft, which supports development, testing and troubleshooting of such systems as Ford Motor's Sync information and entertainment system software, said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group. "The open part isn't as important as the reliability," Howe said. "It requires support and courting of customers. If Google has no interest, it's not going to go anywhere."
While Google only counts devices delivered by its network of 58 manufacturing partners, the company said in an e-mailed statement that the free Android operating system
is available to any developers that wish to use it. Google declined to comment on Android's expansion into electronics.Intel's customers
Intel, the world's largest computer-chip maker, said it has no shortage
of interest in Android-based systems. Intel's Wind River Systems software division is receiving an increasing number of customer requests, said Jim Douglas, vice-president of products and global marketing.
Electronics and appliance makers are taking advantage of falling prices for LCD screens and wireless technologies to consider connecting all manner of devices.
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