A lot of things have changed since I first reviewed Google Glass in April of last year — the product was released for public sale, my then-techy boyfriend is now my ex-techy boyfriend, and now, the product is being pulled from the shelves. On Thursday, the team behind the development of Google Glass announced that public sales would end on Jan. 19. But fret not, Glass lovers, according to the tech giant, this is not the last you've seen of the eyewear; it's simply going through a "transition" phase while "continuing to build for the future."
In a move that is reminiscent of the strategies employed by other successful tech companies, Google will no longer publicly test non-final versions of its products among the general public, and will instead keep all developments under lock and key until they are completely ready to be released. This has certainly worked for Apple, which strategically announces the advent of each new product at an annual showcase to a chorus of ooh's and ahh's. While Google Glass was a highly anticipated product for the Internet company, numerous lawsuits, as well as technical difficulties and apparent uselessness (unless you're a surgeon videotaping your procedures, of course), made the rollout of the product rocky at best.
So now, Google Glass is leaving the Google X unit from which it originally came, and instead will exist under the care and direction of Nest co-founder and CEO Tony Fadell, who sold his company to Google in 2014 for a cool $3.2 billion. With Glass now operating as a standalone unit, the decision to stop selling the product isn't so much of a regression, but more of a sign of growing pains. Several Google products that originated in Google X, like Indoor Maps and Google Brain, have also made the transition out of X and into more specific programs once they've shown promise. And with Google Glass still serving as one of the most innovative (if not particularly practical) developments in the wearable tech industry, it's safe to say that the product has made its mark on the market.
Fadell told The
Telegraph that he was excited to undertake the new project, and noted that Google Glass has already "broken ground and allowed us to learn what's important to consumers and enterprises alike." His job, then, will be "to integrate those learnings into future products." While Google has not yet released a timeline of when these future products will be made publicly available (or what they will look like), it seems safe to assume that the next big thing will be a huge improvement from Glass' original offerings.
Glass team lead Ivy Ross told the Wall Street Journal that the company is in no rush to push out the technology anytime soon, at least not before it's ready. Said Ross, "There’s no reason to throw it out there again. Now it’s time to hunker down." The goal, Ross added, would be to develop a new version of Glass that is cheaper, has longer battery life, better sound quality, and a superior display. But of course, without a public audience on which to test out the product, Google will have to rely on intensive internal testing to ensure that Glass is ready for launch, whenever that may be. This differs drastically from the software's company general modus operandi, as they normally beta test their products, like Gmail, with real users.
While overall improvements to Google Glass should come as a welcome development to technology buffs everywhere, not everyone will be pleased, as Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC's technology correspondent pointed out. After all, several consumers did pay $1,500 for a product that will now be discontinued in its present form forever, breaking promises of continued evolution and community support. However, Google did note that some Google Glass would continue to be sold to companies and developers, so there is still a way to get your hands on a dying piece of history, if you so choose. Or, of course, you could wait for the new and improved version, x number of years from now.
So, is the discontinuation of the current Google Glass a failure for the company? Not at all, many experts say. As Forrester Research's JP Gownder told NPR, Google Glass was never traditionally rolled out, noting,
It's really important to remember, Google Glass was never released as a proper product. It's been in beta for over two years. The Glass Explorer program was designed to be an open community of people who would contribute ideas and that sort of thing. For the mass market, Google Glass has never had a proper release.
He added, "You can't just throw some new radical technology out there without marketing and articulating a vision, or else people will make their own conclusions about it." So this time, under the leadership of Ross and Fadell, Google Glass will have a clear vision.
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