The demise of Google Glass

Well we predicted only a few days ago that there would be some major wearable casualties this year, little realising that the first was about to hit us: Google’s decision to stop selling Glass “in present form”.

Donning this editor’s retrospectacles, the campaign to embed Glass into the world’s technology infrastructure has always felt a bit forced: much more supplier push than customer pull, with wearers, except in circumstances like surgical operations, given a wide berth by many non-wearers. It was pricey too.

Clearly though, the ability to record video and to access information in hands-free mode will continue to be an important requirement for many health & care workers, and social attitudes will likely change too, so there can be little doubt that perhaps a less obviously intrusive version will return in due course.

Editor Donna opines: Having read a few articles crowing about Google Glass’ demise, the sounding off with glee about the demise of Glassholes is way too soon. Yes, let’s agree–in its current form, Glass is obnoxious and awkward except in certain contexts. Let’s go a bit further–it failed. But it failed fast. And isn’t that what we expect–the byword–of Startup World?

1) The project is being moved out of Google X (the R&D lab) into a new unit headed by Tony Fadell, who brought the Nest online thermostat to market, sold it to Google for a tidy $3.2 billion and previously did a few things on the Steve Jobs team like popularize the iPod and work on early iterations of the iPhone. Now Sergey and Larry may need to keep Grizzled Pioneer Tony busy beyond running Nest (a portal into the home), but if you read Mr Fadell’s bio in Fortune (below) this is a clear vote of confidence in that unit’s future. 2) Back in May, the duo put a fashionista, Ivy Ross, in charge. The signs and leaks were there for most of last year that a redesign or repositioning was due; simply do a search on it.

Google can well afford to pull Glass back, take the hit without depriving the Boys of any Toys (like yachts and jets) and most of all, not care what anyone says. This Editor’s prediction: there will be multiple iterations of Glass technology in facial wearables which will not be called Glass. As Charles noted previously, there are highly specialized markets like surgery (I’ve seen the live video, and am convinced), engineering, nursing and factory floor management–specialized capabilities and at a premium price. There may be a limited feature Glass for retail/restaurant workers to assist them in service, for transit drivers in routing and emergencies, and to assist care workers on their rounds. There may be a Glass in-car type unit, seeing that car manufacturers are all het up about adding more to go kerflooey and distract drivers in vehicles, and that Google is committed to a self-driving car (wait for that hack!)

Smartwatches to triumph? This Editor’s private jury is still out on that [TTA 2 Dec 14], including the Apple Watch. Who really needs them? Smartphone capabilities grow ever greater, the expense, trying to view little faces and yes, they are largely (save Withings) ‘brick on wrist’ obnoxious. Au contraire, what’s taking off are big screen phones like Apple’s 6 Plus, the larger Samsung Galaxy models and the LG G3. Squinting makes for wrinkles!

Related reading: Google Glass gets a new boss, the man behind the iPod and Nest (CNet). And a long, impressive bio of Mr Fadell from Adam Lashinsky in Fortune. Naturally, Wired takes the jaded, ‘we are soooo bored and can’t wait for it to fail’ view.

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