Android powering

Many ‘smart’ devices

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’s PicoPix pocket projector and LG Electronics’s Smart Thinq refrigerators to Parrot’s Asteroid car stereo systems and Samsung Electronics’s Galaxy Camera are on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show.

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 percent of the market in the third quarter, while Apple had 14 percent, according to Gartner Inc.

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 Corp. and Logitech International SA didn’t meet sales goals after their introduction in 2010. LG, Hisense Electric Co. and Vizio Inc. plan to demonstrate models that boast an updated version of Android for TVs in Las Vegas.

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.

— Bloomberg News

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