Google Glass is becoming an enigma. Over the past week the fashion world, via hair care product vendor L’Oreal, made a bigger commitment to the, as yet, un-launched device. But at the same time uber-advocate Robert Scoble began talking of this as a year-2020 product. He even used the “doomed” word. What gives?
At CES, wearables were roundly endorsed by many major players in IT, not just those in smartphones. Even print and ink company Epson has a wearable, a wrist-bound heart rate monitor with a calorie burn algorithm, due for launch in June. Epson joins companies as different as Qualcomm, Olympus and Nissan, vying for a space on your body.
By 2020 I’m quite convinced this will be a big deal and there will be lots of competitors by then. So, if you make it about 2020, then it isn’t doomed. If it’s about beating the Apple iWatch in 2014? Yes, totally doomed.
He gives ten reasons, from poor battery life especially when using video, to lack of an app store, and the lack of distribution for apps holding back developers. But perhaps the most relevant is web overload. People are already lost in their smartphones. Hang Glass on your head and your addiction level will rise.
But there is evidence also that Google has misjudged the nature of the wearables market. Apart from the flow of companies into personal monitoring (like Epson), wearables look likely to be a niche market, or rather series of niche markets, with sports being a major beneficiary of Glass-like products initially – Recon (part owned by Intel) are aiming at cycling and ski-ing for example where positional and acceleration data can play an important role in tactics.
Another side to the wearables market is fashion – and yes Google put itself at the front of the line for attention here However, Apple has done the hiring, bringing in CEOs from Yves St Laurent and Burberry, and you’d have to believe they will have critical insights into how wearables can evolve in the fashion industry, first high-end and then into mass markets.
Google meanwhile has spoken of a contact lens for diabetic sufferers, further diversifying its activities in wearable computing at the same time as it has moved into home controls via Nest Labs. Om Malik, a diabetic, raised an important point about that – diabetics are advised not to wear contact lenses. But Google is a tech company that relies on data and technical insights. It’s a great tech company but maybe Glass is showing us that technology, and being first out of the gate, is no longer enough. Empathy is also an asset.