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Technology

Google and Apple look beyond smartphones

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Google unveiled a wristwatch-like wearable device at the I/O 2014 conference in San Francisco on June 25.   © Reuters

SILICON VALLEY -- Google and Apple want to connect everything to the Internet, from automobiles to TVs to our entire homes. The two companies are racing to develop a smart ecosystem using simple apps that can be operated easily by the general public.

     Android, the operating system Google developed for smartphones, will be used for a broader range of devices in the near future, the company announced Wednesday. "Users increasingly are living in a multiscreen world," Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president, told a crowd of 6,000 software engineers at the I/O 2014 conference in San Francisco. "You are using the TV, wearing things on your body and when you get in your car, you expect the same experience."

     That same day, the company unveiled Android Auto, which allows users to enjoy in-car services -- navigation, messaging and music -- using voice-recognition software that connects to vehicles' automotive information systems. Google also rolled out Android TV, which enables people to use their smartphones as remote controls and display apps on television screens.

     Google has partnered with more than 40 companies, including U.S. and foreign carmakers and car navigation system makers, for its automotive services. Japanese automakers, such as Honda Motor and Nissan Motor, are among those working with Google on Android Auto.

     As for Android TV, Japanese consumer electronics companies Sony and Sharp have announced they plan to release Android TV-compatible products.

     Apple also in early June announced its new services -- smart homes that can control lights and surveillance cameras via smartphones, as well as a health management system using wearable technology called HealthKit -- before thousands of software developers. The company called for developers to help them work on the apps and services that are needed for its new technology to succeed.

     These moves by Google and Apple come as the smartphone market reaches saturation point in many parts of the developed world.

     For smartphone companies, offering as many attractive and fun apps as possible is key to success. Apple and Google allow developers to use their platforms so that they can maximize the chances of producing hits for consumers software ecosystems.

     For automakers and home equipment makers, too, offering smartphone-connected services brings a lot of benefits. However, there is a catch: Consumers are not happy with services that run exclusively on one operating system or the other. Therefore, many carmakers have worked with both Google and Apple.

     More than 1 billion people use Android-based devices globally, meaning Google has the upper hand over Apple in terms of user numbers. Still, Apple pioneered the smartphone market with its iPhones, and commands high popularity among consumers.

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