LG Electronics is apparently set to use its own WebOS platform to power a range of smartwatches due early next year, echoing the strategy of rival Samsung.
According to The Wall Street Journal, WebOS will displace Android Wear early in 2016. This builds on comments made by Skott Ahn, the company’s CTO, who said at CES2015 that the company is working on a platform that cares for customers’ wellness instead of “just” tracking and reporting it – including optimising appliances such as water heaters and air conditioners.
LG is already using WebOS – built on technology acquired from HP, which it in turn gained from the acquisition of Palm – in its smart TVs, and at CES2015 last week unveiled an updated version of the platform. The company is expecting to reach the 1 million unit sales mark in the first half of 2015.
WebOS has also been expanded into LG’s signage and hotel TV activities.
LG’s South Korean rival, Samsung, is following a similar path, using its own Tizen platform to power wearable devices. And Samsung has also announced plans to push it as its smart TV platform of choice.
One area where the companies differ is when it comes to smartphones. While Samsung has made numerous – but failed – efforts to drive Tizen into smartphones, LG has made no such noises for WebOS in its handset portfolio.
The big issue is that while smart TVs and wearables are relatively new product categories, meaning there is no established market leader, Android dominates the smartphone market, including the portfolios of the two South Korean players.
In order to compete with Android, Tizen and WebOS would need to offer a compelling content and apps proposition. But without having an installed base of users, there is little incentive for developers to support the alternative platforms.
But with WebOS and Tizen used in wearables, televisions and other consumer electronics products, developers will at least gain some familiarity with the platform, as well as joining the developer programmes of LG and Samsung respectively.
At CES2015 last week, Sony announced plans to push Android as its platform for smart TVs, having already used versions of the platform in smartphones, tablets and wearables.
While it has a common platform across devices, Sony is locked into the Google ecosystem, for all the benefits and pitfalls this entails.