Releasing an Apple Watch competitor would nicely compliment what Osterloh has said is Google’s vision for “ambient computing.” The idea is that Google’s products should always be available to help, say, if you need to make a quick web search. The rest of the time, “the technology just fades into the background when you don’t need it. So the devices aren’t the center of the system, you are,” Osterloh said at a Google hardware event earlier this month. If Google envisions a future world in which people are constantly surrounded by its services, it helps for it to have a computer they can attach to their wrist.That future is far from certain, however. Google has plenty of both hardware and software challenges ahead as it pushes further into wearable devices. Google first announced its Android Wear watches before Tim Cook unveiled the first Apple Watch in 2014, but the company has since fallen behind. For one, WearOS leaves plenty to be desired , especially compared to Apple’s watchOS . Unlike the iPhone maker, which manufacturers its own chips, Google still needs to rely on somewhat lackluster offerings from Qualcomm. And Apple already controls almost 38 percent of the wearable devices market in North America, according to data from the research firm Canalys.
LEARN MOREThe WIRED Guide to Personal Data Aside from wearables, the extensive fitness data Fitbit has amassed could help Google compete in the healthcare market. DeepMind , an artificial intelligence company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has invested in a number of healthcare projects, including using AI to detect kidney problems and prevent blindness in patients with diabetes. Alphabet also owns Verily, a company that focuses on studying the life sciences, which has researched disorders like PTSD .
In a press release, Fitbit said that it “will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why. The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.” It’s not clear, however, whether that means Fitbit information is off limits for Google health projects, as well. Google did not immediately return a request for comment about whether it planned to use Fitbit data for its health care initiatives.