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Google and Samsung merge their wearable OSes, tease Fitbit baked into the combo

Who could possibly have predicted that developers would shun two small ecosystems?

Samsung and Google have decided to combine their wearable operating system efforts in what looks like an admission that developers don't care about either.

The plan will see Samsung's Tizen OS combined with the Wear OS Google offers to all-comers.

The result will be called "Wear" and both companies are saying it will deliver all sorts of exciting new wrist-based experiences real soon now.

Why the merger? Samsung has probably given the game away in a canned quote that states: "Our hope is that this platform will ignite innovation in spaces like the Galaxy Watch Studio and inspire third party development, bringing a bigger and better network of apps to benefit Galaxy users around the world."

Google has also strongly hinted at developer apathy. In its update on Wear OS the ads-and-search giant said the following:

This isn't just for Google and Samsung. All device makers will be able to add a customized user experience on top of the platform, and developers will be able to use the Android tools they already know and love to build for one platform and ecosystem.

Those statements both read a lot like an admission that Google and Samsung have found it hard to get developers interested in creating apps for their platforms, making devices less attractive to buyers.

Market share data tells a similar story. Analyst firm IDC found the 2020 smartwatch market dominated by Apple's Watch, with 151 million shipments. Samsung managed 40 million to sit in fourth place behind Xiaomi (51m) and Huawei (43.5m). Do the maths – Apple's shipments exceed those of Samsung, Xiaomi, and Huawei combined. So where's a developer going to focus?

Google's post announcing the joint development effort said the collaboration has already "made apps start up to 30 per cent faster on the latest chipsets with smooth user interface animations and motion."

"To achieve longer battery life, we've worked to optimize the lower layers of the operating system – taking advantage of low-power hardware cores to enable better battery life. That includes handy optimizations like the ability to run the heart rate sensor continuously during the day, track your sleep overnight and still have battery for the next day."

Google is also revamping its own apps for Wear, with Google Maps and Google Assistant "redesigned and improved" and Google Pay due for a makeover that will see it available in "26 new countries, beyond the 11 countries currently available."

We're also told that YouTube Music will debut on Wear "later this year, equipped with features like smart downloads for subscribers to enjoy music while on the go."

The full Samsung/Google collaboration will emerge "later this year" and include "a world-class fitness service from Fitbit." That last item could be very interesting indeed as it could cannibalise sales of Fitbit's own kit, irk regulators concerned about competition, and make Samsung's own smartphone fitness apps obsolete. ®

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