With Android having become the lead operating system for every smartphone company that licenses its OS with the notable exception of Nokia (which nearly did), Google showed that it's intent not just on moving Android into other devices with sufficient computing horsepower such as tablets and, increasingly, TVs, but now has its sights set on having just about everything that can't run Android directly feed into it. Google is taking two approaches – one for things that plug into Android devices, and one for things that don't.
The Android Open Accessory platform seeks to match, if not trump, the wide range of accessories that have surfaced around Apple's 30-pin connector that began as a simple way to provide charging and audio out. On one hand, unlike Apple, Google is building its accessory platform around the nearly ubiquitous USB connector. Perhaps more importantly, without any special connector to license, it is not charging companies for use of the accessory protocols. This should bode well for adding Android support to peripherals from the traditional to the emerging such as various health monitors and the exercise bike shown at Google I/O. On the other hand, the wide variation in terms of where the connector is placed may make things difficult for peripherals that depend on a device's physical positioning such as speaker and car docks. (There have been challenges with 30-pin products too as Apple has changed the dimensions, power and authentication criteria over the years.)
Overcoming these challenges, however, is child's play compared to Android@Home, which sets out to capture one of the most elusive quests in consumer technology – mainstream adoption of home automation.
Android@Home takes Google into territory where there has been no successful mainstream model and no trailblazing model like the iPhone to reset expectations.
While the Android Open Accessory platform is a natural extension, Android@Home takes Google into territory where there has been no successful mainstream model and no trailblazing model like the iPhone to reset expectations. Bringing home automation to the masses will require developing an ecosystem at least as strong as the one around Android itself.
Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) is executive director of industry analysis for consumer technology at market research and analysis firm The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On are his own.