One of the first signs I saw that the tech industry might take another serious stab at popularizing the smartwatch came back in 2011, when a startup called WIMM Labs showed me its Android-based wearable computing platform.
It featured a clever dual-mode display — monochrome most of the time, color touchscreen when you needed it — and an app store open to third-party developers. WIMM planned to work with gadget makers to use the module as the basis of watches, fitness gizmos and other devices you would fasten to your person.
Later that year, the company released a watch, aimed at prospective app developers, called the WIMM One. And then, in 2012, the company pretty much disappeared — leaving behind only a vague message on its website saying that it was working with an unspecified exclusive partner.
Now Janko Roettgers of GigaOM is reporting that the partner in question is Google — and that it’s not just a WIMM partner, but the company’s owner. It’s a logical development, especially given WIMM’s use of Google’s Android. Whether or not Google intends to release a smartwatch of its own, it certainly would like to see Android running on all sorts of wearable gadgets, which was the big idea behind WIMM in the first place.
Judging from the WIMM One, WIMM’s platform, as neat as it was, still needed work: The watch was thick and ungainly, and its battery struggled to eke out more than a few hours of usage between recharges. (I don’t know who’s going to make the first truly popular smartwatch, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to use it for at least a few days before worrying about its battery level.) As part of Google, WIMM will presumably have the resources it needs to push forward. And WIMM gives Google a head start on putting together the technologies and features that killer wearable devices are going to need.