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Google Beats Apple iWatch to Market

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Every time I read another story about how Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iWatch is a brand-new technology, I feel like I'm living through The Emperor's New Clothes and nobody else is willing to speak up. While Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Motorola MOTOACTV doesn't possess the full functionality of the rumored iWatch -- which hasn't been fully designed yet, as far as one can tell -- it contains many of the critical features that make it a major advance. MOTOACTV has been on the market for well over a year, and yet news of an advanced watch form factor from Apple seems to be an unheard-of leap forward.

While Google's public focus has been on the introduction of Google Glass, with all of the hype that the alleged iWatch is receiving, you must believe Google is working on the next generation of MOTOACTV. The new Apple product may include complete browsing capabilities and may include functionality that isn't currently available from Google, but with this much lead time, Motorola has plenty of opportunity to get prepared. Nothing should be taken away from the designers in Cupertino and the potential that an iWatch poses, but we should at least be honest that it isn't quite as revolutionary as the chatter in the blogosphere might lead you believe.

In the family with Polar heart-rate monitors and other advanced sports watches, MOTOACTV was designed to bundle many of the most popular sports features into a single device. Motorola's solution provides heart-rate monitoring, GPS to track running, cycling and even over 20,000 golf courses, and what the company refers to as a smart MP3 player -- the device tracks which songs you react to and can play an "inspirational" tune when you seem to be tiring. The MOTOACTV also tracks loads of other workout data that can be later downloaded and saved to your computer for analysis and future comparison.

While each of those features makes MOTOACTV a great device for the serious athlete or the weekend warrior, you may be wondering about the big tech features that make it a threat or precursor to the iWatch. By installing an app on your Android smartphone, MOTOACTV can receive calls, texts, Tweets, and posts right on your wrist. Fully integrating additional features such as browsing and expanded voice-activated commands shouldn't be a major stretch if Motorola continues to push forward with this technology.

What does iWatch have that MOTOACTV lacks?
MOTOACTV has market share because it actually exists and the Apple iWatch remains a concept, and a rumored one at that. Leaving aside this fairly critical differentiator, if Apple is able to release an iWatch in the near term, the prognosticators expect that it will offer browsing capabilities, the ability to run a large number of apps, and potentially standalone capacity -- meaning that unlike the MOTOACTV that relies on a connected Android smartphone for communications, the iWatch may include its own antennae. Of course, if that's the case, users may be treated to the delight of yet another voice and/or data plan to make the iWatch work.

Another major, and critical, distinction between the two products as they now "exist" is that the MOTOACTV has a very targeted sports audience, while the Apple device seems to be designed for a wider range of users. This difference may be one of the primary reasons MOTOACTV has remained such a niche product with extremely low awareness. While reviews have been positive, Google has done very little to promote the MOTOACTV outside  health clubs.

Motorola continues to lack luster
Late last week, Google announced the elimination of another 1,200 jobs in its Motorola Mobility unit, just the latest in a number of cuts that have decreased the division's workforce by roughly 25%. The specific motivation for Google to buy Motorola for $12.4 billion remains a topic of much disagreement, but the division's Droid Razr line hasn't kept pace with Android phones available from Samsung, such as the Galaxy S III. Still, if Google hopes to see a return on its investment, leveraging existing products would seem like a reasonable first step.

While there have been no indications that Google plans to adopt the MOTOACTV design as a template to race Apple to market with a full-feature smartwatch, at least as a preliminary offering, the kudos should go to Google's Motorola for design and function. Advertising and creating awareness seem to have been a low priority, which seems odd given the hype the iWatch concept has generated. This segment promises to be of huge importance in the near term, meaning that Google and Apple investors will be watching closely to see whether a battle erupts and how it progresses.

As one of the most dominant Internet companies ever, Google has made a habit of driving strong returns for its shareholders. However, like many other Web companies, it's also struggling to adapt to an increasingly mobile world. Despite gaining an enviable lead with its Android operating system, the market isn't sold. That's why it's more important than ever to understand each piece of Google's sprawling empire. In The Motley Fool's new premium research report on Google, we break down the risks and potential rewards for Google investors. Simply click here now to unlock your copy of this invaluable resource.

Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:02 AM, bobmugge1960 wrote:


  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:03 AM, danno1234 wrote:

    The tablet was designed by microsoft years before the ipad. Apple never does it first. They are just the first to have the discipline and patience and creativity to make one that someone wants to use.

    Apple is NOT innovative. They did not invent the mouse, Kodak did. Apple made it work. The mp3 was around before Apple made one that didn't crash and that normalized the volume between separate songs. The smartphone existed before iphone. Blackberry's were great. Iphone was better.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:03 AM, bonzo99911 wrote:

    Another pointless article written by a fool!

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:07 AM, XMFBiggles wrote:

    @ danno1234 -

    Kodak didn't invent the mouse. Doug Engelbart did while working at Stanford.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:11 AM, JKramarz321 wrote:

    " MOTOACTV has been on the market for well over a year,"

    Motorola had cell phones for over 20 years before Apple entered the market.

    These products are going to be around for the rest of our lives, so there's no point worrying about who was the first to market, because once you get to market, it doesn't matter.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:25 AM, trestranpryat wrote:

    Why didn't you ask the same question, why Apple built ipod a long time back when there were already so many MP3 players? Just because you can build it first, doesn't mean it is better.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:28 AM, SyDVooh wrote:

    I'm patiently waiting for the iWatch to arrive. Waiting for the iTV too. A lot of loyal Apple customers are waiting to buy new Apple products. Apple products are well designed, well made, work well and seamlessly together in the Apple Ecosystem.

    Naturally, I'm long AAPL.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:29 AM, Seafairer wrote:

    Looks like you are being proven wrong on many points. The article also seems biased, without regard to financial holdings in either Company.

    Apple did innovate with the iPhone, even though the groundwork was already prepared.

    You didn't mention that Google was not first with search engines, but look at what they have built with homegrown tech. Objectivity, please.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 12:37 AM, ericmiddleton wrote:

    I have a MotoACTV and after less than 10 minutes with a computer I had it rooted and could install and run any android app on it. That means web browsing, actual texting, email, pandora, etc. all on my wrist. This device is more than a year old yet they still managed to put a 600mhz processor and 256mb ram in the tiny package-- thats like what a midrange smartphone had back then!

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 6:10 AM, badge3832 wrote:

    I got a MOTOACTV as a gift. It's pretty useless.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 8:18 AM, 1appleAday wrote:

    MOTOACTV first, how about Apple's watch that was not meant to be a watch the Nano. It sure was a better looking watch then the MOTOACTV. Can't wait to see what Apple does when they actually set their minds to making a watch.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2013, at 1:55 PM, kschnable wrote:

    Late commenting on this but I agree - what a terrible article. Comparing MOTOACTV to what Apple is likely to come out with regarding an iWatch is like comparing old Motorola phones with iPhones.

    Regarding being able to root the MOTOACTV... Don't have first hand experience with MOTOACTV but don't get me started on the low quality of so many Android apps compared to the much higher quality of iOS apps. I write both and anyone can write buggy or malicious Android apps and have them available on Google Play in hours available for poor users.

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