Swatch bids to end Silicon Valley stranglehold on watch operating systems

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Swatch Group is bidding to take on the might of Silicon Valley by developing an alternative to the iOS and Android operating systems for smartwatches, its CEO revealed yesterday.

Plans are in place for the first model using the Swiss-made system to be available in 2018. Swatch’s Tissot brand will be the first line to feature the system.

Speaking at a press conference in Switzerland, CEO Nick Hayek explained the system will also be able to connect small objects and wearables and promised improved battery life and better data protection.

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He said the firm was willing to supply third parties with the operating system and claims 100 companies have already requested further information. At least half of those come from smaller Silicon Valley companies that don’t want to be dependent on Android and iOS, he revealed.

The move will see Swatch take on the muscle of Apple and Google, which have dominated the smartwatch operating environment over the past two years.

Swatch’s strategy contrasts with the likes of TAG Heuer, which this week unveiled a new smartwatch range in conjunction with Google and Intel, as well Richemont, which is about to launch its first smartwatch using Android 2.0 technology.

Bloomberg noted in a report yesterday that competition from smartwatches has hurt low-end timepieces the most, and Hayek has been adding electronic functions into Swatch’s own less expensive brands such as Tissot and its namesake timepieces.

It added that Hayek said Swatch’s approach will work better as it is trying to “think small” as one of the biggest problem for wearable devices is battery drainage.

“There’s a possibility for wearables to develop as a consumer product, but you have to miniaturise and have an independent operating system,” the CEO was quoted as saying.

Analysts will be watching developments closely, but some have already expressed reservations that Swatch may encounter challenges as people use smartwatches expecting to use the same apps they have on their mobiles. “A proprietary operating system defeats the object,” one analyst told Bloomberg.

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