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Android may help you raid the fridge

Google plans to have smartphones linked with TV, appliances

– Google’s Android software, the most widely used smartphone operating system, is making the leap to rice cookers and refrigerators as manufacturers vie to dominate the market for gadgets controlled through the Internet.

Android-based products such as Royal Philips Electronics’s PicoPix pocket projector, LG Electronics’s Smart Thinq refrigerators, Parrot’s Asteroid car stereo systems and Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Camera were on display last week at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Extending its free operating system to new devices could let Google collect more data to build its lucrative search business and one-up software rivals Microsoft and Apple.

Android also is an easy to-use-platform that helps appliance makers like Samsung and Philips add product features and benefit from demand for Internet-connected devices – a market IDC predicts will reach more than $2 trillion in 2015.

“Android is sitting pretty in this space to take more share from the incumbents,” IDC analyst Al Hilwa said. “The fundamental advantage with Android is that the vendor can take a bigger chunk of the software and own it.”

Since the first Android-based phones went on sale in 2008, devices based on the mobile operating system have surged in popularity.

Smartphones running the software held 72 percent of the market in the third quarter, while Apple had 14 percent, according to Gartner Inc.

Building Android directly into devices can make it easier for electronic equipment and appliances to exchange information with less human intervention.

A television, for example, might show a pop-up message from a clothes dryer in the basement, indicating that the homeowner’s jeans are not yet dry. The user could press a button on the TV remote to automatically add 15 minutes to the dryer cycle.

A connected rice cooker could determine what type of rice is being used and set cooking instructions accordingly.

Making more intelligent, connected appliances and electronics has been a goal of manufacturers for years. And recent efforts to broaden Android beyond phones and computers haven’t all panned out.

Google tried to push into the living room via its Google TV product. The set-top boxes and software for televisions made by Sony Corp. and Logitech International SA didn’t meet sales goals after their introduction in 2010. LG, Hisense Electric Co. and Vizio Inc. demonstrated models that boast an updated version of Android for TVs in Las Vegas.

This time will be different, manufacturers say. Companies are competing to develop operating systems that can span a variety of devices and attract a loyal base of developers and consumers.

The market for so-called intelligent systems, or devices capable of receiving and transmitting over the Internet, will double to almost 4 billion units in 2015 from more than 1.8 billion units and more than $1 trillion in revenue in 2011, according to IDC.

The market now is fragmented among more than 30 software makers, including QNX Software Systems Ltd. and companies’ home-grown development efforts.

“The Android circle is getting bigger,” Android founder Andy Rubin said in May at a news conference. “Everything should be Androidified – is that the word?”

Android’s proliferation offers broader access to hundreds of downloadable applications developed specifically for Web-connected gear, letting electronics makers create a family of products that can exchange information, said Frederic Albinet, marketing manager at Parrot, which began selling its $600 Asteroid Smart car system in October.

“There are many apps in the Android Marketplace we get access to, and our Asteroid developers have an operating system that everyone’s becoming familiar with,” he said.

Last year in Japan, Panasonic began selling a range of home appliances, from microwaves to air conditioners, that can be controlled by smartphones while providing information to users.

Its $600 Android-controlled SR-SX2 rice cooker lets users search for recipes on their Android phones and then transmit them to the cooker. It also provides information such as how much electricity it has used.

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