Once upon a time, not long ago, Google Glass was the promise of the future of technology. It was an innovative, cool device that gave us a blend of the latest in augmented and cloud technologies – and it was wearable! A computer on your face that can give directions, connect to LinkedIn, make phone calls, send emails and so much more. A technology that can and probably will change the world. An altogether great idea! So how did Google take something with so much potential and – in the words of one writer – screw it up?
A quick glance at the literature over the past few months is showing that Google Glass is nothing short of a marketing disaster. It’s been met with negative press, has been lampooned by The Daily Show, has been perceived as elitist and symbolic of the growing wealth divide, has raised all kinds of privacy concerns, and is seen as way overpriced. Google Glass, in other words, is anything else but what Google’s executive team intended. It’s an epic failure!
In an October “obituary” in PC Magazine entitled Rest in Peace, Google Glass: 2012-2014, writer John Dvorak summed it up this way: “Glass has disappeared almost overnight, and there’s a reason: Google’s ham-fisted approach to privacy.” He’s right. Quite frankly, the general public didn’t get how Google Glass works or what purpose it serves, other than as a high priced gimmick and an annoyance. The perception is that Google Glass is usually recording and that irks people to the point that some businesses have asked users to remove their glasses upon entry.
Another reason behind the failure of Glass is that no one seemed to know if it ever launched. I’ve asked my colleagues a handful of times over the past 2 years if anyone heard when Google Glass will launch commercially? Each time I inquired, it was anyone’s guess.
A third reason is that it’s just a bad design. The fact that you can spot a Google Glass wearer a mile away says it all. Here, Google should’ve taken lessons from Apple! Why does Apple win? Quoting one writer, “Simply because it doesn’t try to be technology – it tries to be wearable. The art of selling technology is to hide the technology.”
A fourth major reason is that Glass is way overpriced. At $1500, what’s the point? It’s all built from commoditized technology that is readily available. In fact, one source has estimated it costs only $80 to make.
Notwithstanding the setbacks, there are many benefits of Google Glass. It’s a cool and trendy technology that’s well ahead of its time. Glass has awakened us to the emerging role that wearable technology will play in our digital lives. And if you saw the rollout of the new Apple Watch recently you’ll know that this is becoming a serious market. We’ve seen the future of augmented reality and we’re intrigued and ready to welcome it. But like any serious product, Google Glass would need to sell itself. It would need to meet real world needs in a price-conscious manner. And it would obviously have to look good.
So what can we learn from the Google Glass debacle? Well, we need to go back to Apple and to understand why people flock to buy its products. They buy them because they can’t do otherwise. The MacIntosh, iPod, and iPhone each revolutionized the way people interacted with technology through the mouse, through the click-wheel, and through multi-touch. But all of this started with a really cool and innovative design concept that met people’s needs. And if past history is any indication we can’t help but think that Apple will also revolutionize the smartwatch industry starting in 2015.
The main takeaway here is that the consumer is not beholden to cool technology for its own sake. You can have the best technology in the world but if it’s viewed as gimmicky or contrived, it won’t sell. Great technology starts with good, sleek, useful design that is subtly simple and appealing. Google Glass is not a lost cause, but just a missed opportunity for a tech giant that has done so many other things well.
So rest in peace Google Glass, it was a good try but one destined to failure. People, we learned, are inconspicuous users of new and innovative technology; long on form, short on function.