When the new iPod Nano came out, it seemed like it would be just perfect for being made into a watch computer. It was a tiny square with a multitouch display, almost a miniature iPhone or iPod Touch. All that was needed, it seemed, was for someone to put it on a watch strap.
In reality, though, the "iPod watch" left something to be desired. Its sleep mode made it difficult to use it to check the time, which is pretty basic for something you use as a watch. And while it looked and felt like a mini iPhone, it couldn't install anything from the app store, making it basically worthless as a computer. What good is a wrist computer with no apps?
That seems to be what the people at WIMM Labs are asking. Their answer? A custom-designed square computer, designed for smart watches and powered by Google's Android operating system.
Android on your wrist
While Apple accessory makers are mostly limited by the hardware that Apple puts out, startups like WIMM Labs can do whatever they want with Android. That's because the programming code for Android is open-source, and is posted for free on the Internet. Anyone can use it, anyone can download it, and you don't even need to ask Google's permission. (Google hasn't posted the tablet version of Android yet, but this is an oversight that it claims it will rectify later.)
In WIMM's case, what it's making is a tiny square computer, that's designed not just for smart watches but also for pendant computers, pedometers … anything you can dream up. Other companies will be able to buy WIMM's computers and turn them into specialized devices. And app developers will be able to write "Micro Apps," that work on any WIMM device and deliver "Immediate, relevant glances of personal data."
So what's the downside?
First, the WIMM One isn't available yet. App developers can preorder one right now, but anyone else will have to wait.
Second, the WIMM One — unlike Android itself — will not be an open-source platform. Companies that want to make WIMM devices will need to get WIMM Labs' permission, and become a licensor. This is the same business model that Microsoft uses, and it hasn't worked out too well for them; they dominate the business market, but few people willingly choose their products (aside from the XBox).
Still, the WIMM One shows how versatile Android is … and, perhaps, how the world is a better place for it.
Leave a reply