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Google Android software spreading to cars, watches, TV

Google set out to expand its Android empire beyond smartphones to cars, watches and televisions.

SAN FRANCISCO: Google set out on Wednesday to expand its Android empire beyond smartphones to cars, watches and televisions.

The technology titan laid out a sweeping Android vision at the opening of a sold-out developers’ conference in a keynote presentation streamed online to millions of people across the world.

"We are beginning to evolve our platforms beyond mobile," Android and Chrome teams chief Sundar Pichai said of how Google's twin operating systems are being adapted to work with one another and with new types of computing hardware.

Google's goal, according to Pichai, is to have its software serve be a foundation for applications, services or digital content delivered seamlessly across the increasingly diverse array of Internet-linked screens in people's lives.

A new LG G smart watch and a freshly-announced Gear Live smart watch by Samsung that both work with the "Android Wear" platform will be available at the online shop Google Play by the end of the day Wednesday, according to Pichai.

On-stage demonstrations included ordering a pizza in seconds, fielding reminders and messages, and using voice commands on smart watches.

An eagerly awaited Moto smart watch will join the Android Wear lineup later this year, according to Google.

"These are the first three watches, but there are more on the way," Pichai said.

Android Auto software tailored for cars, synching smartphones with in-dashboard screens and controls, is being shared with auto makers and vehicles "should be rolling off lots" by the end of this year, according to Google.

Android Auto brings apps like Google Maps and Spotify music service to "an interface built for driving," according to a freshly formed coalition of technology and car companies called the Open Automotive Alliance.

"There can be no denying the connected car era has arrived," Audi AG electronics development head Ricky Hudi said in an alliance release.

"With it comes the expectation that the data and functions provided by smartphone apps will seamlessly bridge to Audi infotainment environments as the 'fourth screen' in our customers' lives."

Google also announced another shot at smart televisions with Android TV software for what are typically the biggest screens in homes.

Google is giving televisions "the same level of attention that phones and tablets have enjoyed" when it comes to Android-powered capabilities, according to Android engineering director Dave Burke.

Android smartphones, complete with voice command features, could be used to direct searches and more on television screens, an on-stage demonstration showed.

Android games from the Google Play shop could also be played on televisions.

"The Google empire is trying to grow," Gartner consumer technology research director Brian Blau told AFP on the sidelines of the San Francisco keynote presentation.

"Google is trying to be more like Apple; create more consistent experiences with devices that work together."

Handset or tablet makers are free to customize free Android software to suit hardware and set themselves apart from rivals, but this has resulted in popular applications working on some gadgets and not others in a situation referred to as "fragmentation."

Apple, on the other hand, so tightly controls the software powering its popular iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices that developers can more easily target broad audiences.

Improving how well popular services or applications work across the growing array of Android-powered devices should also entice users to "lock in" to the Google-backed platform the way Apple devotees remain loyal to the Cupertino, California company's gear, according to Blau.

"Lots of variations of Android make developers work harder to support all those devices," the analyst said.

"A consistent experience will help Google in the long run."

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