Google has had quite a few Android-related experiments, but not all are as widely-used as Android for phones or even Wear OS, formerly Android Wear, are. Although Google is not ready to abandon them yet, it sometimes “refocuses” on what they’re all about. Case in point is Android Things, which is essentially Android for the Internet of Things. While it will still touch a bit on that market, Google is now turning the platform into a playground for OEMs, specifically those making smart speakers and smart displays.
Of all the Android “spinoffs”, Android Things is the youngest and probably the least known. It is practically the rebranded Brillo, Google’s short-lived IoT endeavor. And although Google promises that Android Things “continues to be a platform for experimenting with and building smart, connected devices”, it’s now limiting that definition to smart speakers and smart displays.
Perhaps Google sees this as a more lucrative and more long-lasting market than IoT in general. Android Things is already being used for the first generation of Smart Speakers and Smart Displays from Lenovo, JBL, and LG. Ironically, Google’s own Home products use a custom version of its Cast platform instead.
The refocusing doesn’t come without a cost, at least for other Android Things users. The most important is that support for NXP, Qualcomm, and MediaTek hardware will no longer be made available publicly, making it a private club for OEMs. For developers who still want to jump onboard the IoT train, Google is redirecting them towards its cloud-based platforms instead.