Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) I/O conference didn't disappoint, as the stock soared 2.5% behind a slew of product updates and releases aimed at driving Android, Chrome, and other top Google platforms' market share even higher. While there were many headlines from the conference, information surrounding Android Wear was very telling, especially if you're a Fossil Group (NASDAQ: FOSL ) shareholder.
The early headlines
In March, Google gave an early glimpse at Android Wear, its flagship mobile operating system designed for wearable products like watches. In Android Wear's infancy, Google announced Fossil as a partner that was helping it to combine watches with Android.
Seeing as how Fossil commands a staggering 45% share of the U.S. fashion watch market with nearly $3.5 billion in annual revenue, the match seemed like a good fit, not to mention it eased fears surrounding smart watches by Fossil investors.
Prior to the announcement, Fossil investors had expressed concern that Fossil had failed to adopt the smart watch movement. But, with Google as a partner, it seemed reasonable that Fossil stood ready to gain on pent-up demand.
What a difference three months makes
Now, fast forward three months to Google's I/O conference -- one of the big presentations was Android Wear and the fact that it's ready to go. As many expected, Android Wear is integrated with the operating system for smartphones and tablets, as consumers can now get notifications, texts, scheduling confirmations, navigation, and voice control, among other features, on their wrists.
Many of these features were known or expected, but the surprise was that Samsung and LG are both launching updated smart watches with the operating system. Furthermore, Motorola was noted as the next developer to launch its smart watch product within the next few months.
Samsung, LG, and Motorola being mentioned is no shock, but what is surprising is that Fossil was not mentioned, and apparently doesn't have a product ready to launch in the immediate future. In March, there was some speculation that Fossil would be one of Google's preferred developers, but based on the I/O conference, this assumption couldn't be further from reality.
So, what does this mean for Fossil? Clearly, the $60 billion global watch business is big enough for more than one smart watch brand, but given Fossil's market-leading presence in the U.S., it seemed important that the company get off to a fast start.
According to The Statistics Portal, the wearable devices market was worth just $2.5 billion last year, but over the next four years will skyrocket to nearly $13 billion. Clearly, this growth is what Google sees in Android Wear, and is why developers like Samsung, LG, and Motorola rushed to get a product on the market.
However, Fossil, whose double-digit revenue growth has been sustainable, but whose operating expenses grew to nearly double its revenue in the last quarter, is taking its time. Like other retailers, Fossil has had to discount and invest in infrastructure over the last year. Yet, smart watches and wearable devices represent a new market where Fossil could find new growth and thrive. But, if the Fossil is not aggressive enough, it may have trouble stealing market share from traditional technology companies that already have a large smartphone presence and are now developing wearable devices.
Fossil's 15.5 times earnings multiple is not particularly expensive; the company is expected to grow in the high single-digits in 2014 and 2015.
If it's unsuccessful in the smart watch arena, or if it's late to the party, Fossil could see revenue growth decelerate abruptly, or even decline if consumers gravitate toward these new wearable devices. Therefore, until Fossil releases a product of its own, and initial feedback is known, investors should tread carefully and realize that the company's near-15% share price decreases this year might be for good reason.
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