Google Glass: down but not out

Its future as a consumer product is uncertain, but Glass isn't going away yet

Google appears to be preparing many more features for Google Glass ahead of an eventual public launch.
Google appears to be preparing many more features for Google Glass ahead of an eventual public launch.

When Google has said it would end its Explorer program for Glass and stop selling the current version to consumers, a few premature obituaries were written for the head-worn device.

True, Glass has struggled to find its place in the mainstream. Even at last week's International CES, a mecca for geeks, we saw very few attendees sporting Glass, while a year before they were a common sight on the show floor.

"Google Glass is a great example of good product looking for a problem," said Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research.

But make no mistake: Glass isn't going away -- not without more of a fight. While it's struggled to find support among consumers, some businesses have been highly receptive to the electronic eyewear, and the next iterations of Glass might suit them even better.

"The future of Glass is that it becomes a tool for how you do work," said Det Ansinn, founder of BrickSimple, which develops workplace apps for Glass and other devices.

Google may have been caught off guard by the level of interest among business users, he said. Hospitals and factories aren't the kinds of places Google normally calls home, but surgeons and engineers are among the users that have warmed the most to Glass.

In the public sphere, the device raised hackles because of the way it can inconspicuously capture audio, pictures and video. In a few cases, people were even assaulted for wearing it. But in the workplace, those cultural issues present less of a barrier.

There also were few incentives for consumers to don the headgear. Glass doesn't provide people with information they can't already look up on their smartphones, Campbell of Nucleus Research said.

"The apps weren't there to make it compelling enough," he said. He doesn't see a time when there's broad acceptance of people walking down the street with Glass on their faces.

Analyst Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies says he never believed Google wanted to play in the hardware side of the market. It wanted to see how such a product would be received and what developers would do with it.

"Sometimes to learn these things you have to take something to market," he said. "Google may still do something here, but they'll take the time to refine it."

Campbell and others think Glass has a strong future in the enterprise. Engineers fixing industrial equipment can benefit from a hands-free computer that puts information directly in their field of vision. And surgeons have filmed their operations for distance learning.

Google said it is moving Glass out of its Google X labs and into a standalone product division. The head of that division will report to Tony Fadell , who runs Nest Labs, the smart-home company Google bought last year.

"Google, by doing this, confirms that Glass isn't dead," said Kyle Samani, CEO of Pristine, which develops Glass apps for health care, education, and other areas.

He praised Google for handing oversight of Glass to Fadell, a former Apple executive who helped develop the iPod. He could help turn Glass into a product that more everyday folk want to use, and in that sense its future as a consumer device might not be over.

A spokesman for Strava, which makes fitness apps for cyclists and runners, said the company is "still just as excited to work with Google as we were last month or when we first started developing apps for Glass."

Still, developers are crucial to the life of computing platforms, and some will think twice about Glass if it becomes a niche product, Campbell said. "They may do the mental math and realize the economics don't make sense."

It's unclear if future versions of Glass will be offered to consumers, or what support its existing Explorer users will continue to receive. The company didn't respond to questions about those topics.

For Ansinn of the apps company BrickSimple, however, the news reaffirmed Google's commitment to Glass, after the low attendance at September's Glass developer conference had some concerned about its future.

"I'm excited as much as I have some trepidation," he said. "I'm happy that Google is seeing Glass through."

(Tim Hornyak in Tokyo contributed to this report.)

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Launch marketing council Episode 5: Retailer and supplier

In our fifth and final episode, we delve into the relationship between retailer and supplier and how it drives and influences launch marketing strategies and success. To do that, we’re joined by Campbell Davies, group general manager of Associated Retailers Limited, and Kristin Viccars, marketing director A/NZ, Apex Tool Group. Also featured are Five by Five Global managing director, Matt Lawton, and CMO’s Nadia Cameron.

More Videos

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

AI Leasing Assistants have finally arrived for the multifamily industry. With so many to choose from it can be hard to figure out which i...

Alice Labs Pte. Ltd.

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 6 May 2021

Read more

Nowadays, when everything is being done online, it is good to know that someone is trying to make an improvement. As a company, you are o...

Marcus

10 lessons Telstra has learnt through its T22 transformation

Read more

Blog Posts

The playbook to develop strategic brand moats

Warren Buffet is an unlikely ally for marketers. But his belief businesses need strategic moats that increase their value in the market while acting as barriers to competitors can offer marketers a new playbook for brand building and driving growth.

Fabian Di Marco

Founder and managing director, Tzu & Co

Why if marketing is all you do, you’ll never be very good at it

OK, so you’re probably thinking: “Here comes another article to badger me about living in my bubble.” And also, “I bet this bubble-bashing piece will go on to explain how I can achieve better results through some heady dose of new life experiences, new routines and annoyingly different opinions on social media.”

Dane Smith and Toby Harrison

Ogilvy Australia

A leader’s role in rebuilding a culture of confidence

Every day, there are new predictions and studies on the future of work, the state of the economy and the unfolding global pandemic. All of which creates uncertainty and heightens the imperative of effective leadership.

Michelle Gibbings

Workplace expert, author

Sign in