The news that Google is going to keep its new wearables platform, Android Wear, under tight control comes as a pleasant surprise.
The Big G has said Wear and its new Android TV and Android Auto systems will not be customisable, flying in the face of Android’s founding premise but also meaning each system will be much more uniform and easier for users to understand.
Google engineering director David Burke told Ars Technica: “The UI is more part of the product in this case.
We want to just have a very consistent user experience.”
He added that he wants the update process to be like that of Chrome on the desktop: seamless and occurring without users having to lift a finger.
This is huge news and shows that Google does not want to get into a whole new world of fragmentation, the problem that it seems it will never be able to solve on Android proper.
Not allowing manufacturers to customise Android Wear is bold and brilliant.
Google knows that its smartwatches will need timely software updates and plenty of them.
Clearly, it doesn’t want to have to go through the rigmarole of releasing new software, only for OEMs to take an age to release it to customers.
It’s dealt with this problem for so long with the likes of Samsung and HTC’s phones that it doesn’t want to do the same with a new product category.
But could this be done with phones as well as smartwatches? It would be harder, surely.
Manufacturers can only really differentiate on custom Android skins these days and they’re unlikely to be willing to give up that privilege.
But with Material Design changing how Android looks for the better, perhaps it’s time they all sat down and realised fancy UIs that kill off software updates are a pain in the long run.
In making this move, Google is doing what it should have from the start with Android.
By doing this with Android Wear, Google has given itself and its partners a fantastic chance of taking on Apple’s forthcoming iWatch.
If it can ensure updates come at the same time across devices, then Apple may find itself truly struggling to replicate the iPhone’s success with its smartwatch.
Either way, the battle for your wrist just got interesting.