Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) isn't giving up on Google Glass, its high-tech eyeglasses, according to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.
In mid-January, Google announced it was ending its Glass "Explorer" program, which it launched in April 2013 to allow software developers to buy pre-production versions of Google Glass for $1,500 for testing. The program initially launched in the U.S., and was extended to the UK in mid-2014.
Google said at the time that it was ending the Explorer program because its Glass project had "graduated" from the company's Google X research lab into its own standalone business unit. At the time, the search giant pledged to continue Glass at Work development, suggesting its initial trials of the wearable device showed more promise in professional settings than the consumer market, where the usefulness of the Glass device was much more debatable.
Google's stand-alone wearables business is headed up by Ivy Ross, who reports to Tony Fadell, the founder and CEO of connected device company Nest Labs, which Google acquired in 2014. Fadell is leading strategy for the Glass project.
Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal that despite the changes, the company is not abandoning Glass and that Fadell is working to "to make it ready for users."
"It is a big and very fundamental platform for Google," Schmidt said. "We ended the Explorer program and the press conflated this into us canceling the whole project, which isn't true. Google is about taking risks and there's nothing about adjusting Glass that suggests we're ending it."
Schmidt added that Glass, like Google's push into self-driving cars, is a long-term project. "That's like saying the self-driving car is a disappointment because it's not driving me around now," he said. "These things take time."
The usefulness of Glass, along with its ultimate consumer price tag, was always a matter of debate. While Glass could display voice-activated search results, take pictures, start video chats and record videos, Glass had its shortcomings. Specifically, the Explorer edition of Glass did not have its own cellular connectivity and was dinged for its poor battery life. Further, Glass was criticized for invading people's privacy because wearers can record video and take photos without people noticing, leading some early adopters to be called "glassholes."
Meanwhile, the WSJ reported earlier this year that Google is working on another version of Glass that will be cheaper and have longer battery life, improved sound quality and a better display. Google is also trying to make Glass more aesthetically attractive by pairing the device with more familiar types of eyewear, the Journal noted.
Research firm IDC predicts wearable shipments will reach 112 million annually in 2018 (a fraction of the 1.9 billion smartphones IDC thinks will be shipped that year). Meanwhile, research firm Bering Insight predicts the total shipments of smart watches, smart glasses, fitness and activity trackers and other wearable devices will reach 168.2 million units in 2019.
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
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