Chinese internet giant Baidu has launched its own watch OS called DuWear. There has been a flurry of Chinese wearables activity of late, with Alibaba partnering with Xiaomi for a tracker-based mobile payment solution, Huawei launching an Android Wear smart watch, and Huawei and Baidu launching smart glass products. It is no surprise that Chinese companies are looking to cash in on the new wearables market that is emerging, and are keeping a close eye on the Apple Watch and its debut in China.
Android Wear faces an uphill battle in China, with most Google services being blocked. While rumors of a Chinese version of Android Wear are beginning to surface, it’s unclear when that will happen or what compromises Google will have to make to participate in China.
In the meantime, Baidu is trying to fill the gap by developing a watch OS suited for the Chinese market. Built on Android, DuWear is compatible with existing Android Wear watches, as well. On its website, Baidu says that users with an Android 4.3 or above phone and any of the Android Wear watches including the LG G Watch R, LG G Watch, Sony Smart Watch 3, or Moto 360 can flash upgrade their device and install DuWear. The company even provides a step-by-step tutorial on how to do that. According to Tech in Asia, Baidu is also expected to launch a DuWear watch soon with a major manufacturer, which will be available to buy in June of this year.
With Baidu being a search engine at its heart, it is not surprising that DuWear supports voice-based search, with a “Hi Baidu” command, similar to Android’s “OK Google”. Other services include information on weather, stocks, maps, and fitness tracking. By the looks of it, the UI is also fairly similar to Android Wear with custom watch faces.
Now that Baidu has stepped into the market with its own watch OS, device maker Xiaomi will most likely follow next. Xiaomi is the largest Chinese smartphone vendor, with its own UI built over Android called MiUI. Xiaomi hasn’t yet announced its plans for a smart watch, although it has a fitness tracker called the Mi Band. Xiaomi’s closest rival, Huawei, launched the Huawei Watch at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona. Huawei chose to go with Android Wear, although its watch is unlikely to sell in China. Xiaomi will most likely launch a Mi watch running a MiUI watch OS. It will be restricted to only work with Xiaomi phones, and will be priced competitively to both Android Wear and the Apple Watch. Xiaomi’s ambition will be no less than becoming the number one smart watch vendor in China, and therefore will need to create a compelling watch as well as OS, something that millions of Xiaomi fans will be waiting for. Xiaomi has more than 100 million users on the MiUI system, which is a sizable target base to go after. Now, it is not a question of if Xiaomi will launch a smart watch and watch OS, but when.