Although it hasn't earned rave reviews, the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch is yet another connected smart device orbiting in the Galaxy range of products, which includes the most popular Android smartphone and a popular line of tablets and phablets. Taking a step back, the proliferation of products makes sense. At its first developers' conference a few weeks ago, Samsung unveiled a new multi-screen SDK that will enable the development of cross-device content sharing.  And while the Korean conglomerate is the current heir apparent to the Android juggernaut, it isn't the only company jockeying for a position in this high-stakes competition:

  • Google follows users across PCs, tablets, and smartphones, through its own OS (Android) and popular browser (Chrome), which already sync across devices connected through the same Google account. Through Chromecast, it also makes televisions Google-connected devices.
  • Apple's iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), popular MacBooks, and other devices like Apple TV, all use the same Apple ID to connect and update software and content through the App Store.
  • Amazon owns a sizeable slice of the tablet pie (its Kindle range of tablets) and is rumored to be developing its own television set-top box to complement its large streaming video collection. It also enjoys a single sign-on.
  • Microsoft has reinvigorated its phone line through Nokia, is aggressively trying to market its Surface line of tablets, and it goes without saying that the company still dominates PC operating systems. Internet Explorer is on the wane, but still prominent. And the company has one of the most popular Internet-connected gaming consoles, Xbox.

These parallel, vertically-integrated electronic product lines have profound implications for third-party hardware and software developers, but for advertisers and publishers as well.

When a customer buys into a manufacturer's ecosystem and uses any combination of their television, phone, tablet, computer, gaming console, or browser offerings, there's an opportunity for multi-screen advertising campaigns. Ad format standardization, championed by organizations like the IAB and OPA, is only accelerated by programmatic buying's drive for scale.

But most importantly, the fact that the market is split across at least five major players, and few consumers are siloed within a single player's ecosystem, suggests that standards will emerge. App developers attend all the developers' conferences (they are all at San Francisco's Moscone Center, after all), and they understand and are comfortable working with the most popular SDKs. But two different OSs is time-consuming, complicated, and expensive enough - with five, there is considerable pressure to consolidate and standardize.

Once advertising formats, whether responsive or agreed-upon standards for the range of popular screen dimensions, and a consensus is reached on how users' attention is tracked and shared, true multi-screen campaigns can grow to meaningful scale. Even someone like me, who uses an Apple computer, a Samsung phone and a Google/Android tablet, should be an attractive target for a cross-device campaign.