It looks like Google Glasses is a short-sighted business promo
AFTER two years of popping up at highprofile events sporting Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin sauntered bare-faced into a Silicon Valley red-carpet event yesterday.
He’d left his pair in the car, Brin told a reporter. The Googler, who heads up the topsecret lab which developed Glass, has hardly given up on the product – he recently wore his pair to the beach.
But Brin’s timing is not propitious, coming as many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1 500 (R17 000) test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google itself has pushed back the Glass rollout to the mass market.
While Glass may find some specialised, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.
Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.
Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official web site include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter.
“If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There’s no market at this point,” said Tom Frencel, the chief executive of Little Guy Games, which put development of a Glass game on hold this year and is looking at other platforms, including Facebook Incowned virtual-reality goggles, Oculus Rift.
Several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz; electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong; and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.
And a Glass funding consortium created by Google Ventures and two of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capitalists, Kleiner Perkins
Some people viewed the glasses as privacy intrusions, calling its wearers ‘Glassholes’ not hip ‘Explorers’.
Caufield & Byers and Andreessen Horowitz, quietly deleted its website, routing users to the main Glass site.
Google insists it is committed to Glass, with hundreds of engineers and executives working on it, as well as new fashionista boss Ivy Ross, a former Calvin Klein executive. Tens of thousands use Glass in the pilot consumer program.
“We are completely energised and as energised as ever about the opportunity that wearables and Glass in particular represent,” said Glass head of business operations Chris O’Neill.
Glass was the first project to emerge from Google’s X division, the secretive group tasked with developing “moonshot” products such as self-driving cars. Glass and wearable devices overall amount to a new technology, as smartphones once were, that will likely take time to evolve into a product that clicks with consumers.
“We are as committed as ever to a consumer launch. That is going to take time and we are not going to launch this product until it’s absolutely ready,” O’Neill said.
Brin had predicted a launch this year, but 2015 was now the most likely date, a person familiar with the matter said.
After an initial burst of enthusiasm, signs that consumers are giving up on Glass have been building.
Google dubbed the first set of several thousand Glass users as “Explorers”. But as the Explorers hit the streets, they drew stares and jokes. Some people viewed the device, capable of surreptitious video recording, as an obnoxious privacy intrusion, deriding the once-proud Explorers as “Glassholes”.
“It looks super-nerdy,” said Shevetank Shah, a Washington, DC-based, consultant, whose Google Glass now gathers dust in a drawer. “I’m a card carrying nerd, but this was one card too many.”
Glass now sells on eBay for as little as half its listed price.
Some developers recently have felt unsupported by in- vestors and Google itself.
“It’s not a big enough platform to play on seriously,” said Matthew Milan, founder of a software firm. – Reuters
Sergey Brin, Google Glasses’s co-founder. Brin had predicted a launch this year but now 2015 is the most likely date. Glass prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.