It’s been two and a half years since Google first unveiled Google Glass, its project to create glasses that serve as an augmented-reality display for mobile users. Since then, not much has happened. The company has offered actual Google Glasses to beta users for $1,500 a pop. Reviews from the users were mixed, and reviews from non-users encountering Glass users were decidedly negative.
Now, with Reuters reporting that a number of apps developers (including Twitter) have given up on Google Glass, there is talk about whether it’s time for Google to pull the plug on the project – or at least give up on the hardware angle and stick to software.
As Technology Review has pointed out, many of Google Glass’ problems have been hardware-related – it’s too bulky, battery life is terrible, and the display was obvious enough to make other people nervous. A number of companies are devising potential solutions to all of these.
Meanwhile, there is growing interest in wearables, particularly now that Apple has jumped into the smart-watch game. Head displays can still be a part of that trend, with the right design. And device makers who are already chasing the smart-watch market surely have plans to develop smartglasses at some point.
(Supposedly, Huawei Technologies plans to launch its own pair of smartglasses under the Honor brand, although the rumored launch date of November 24 has come and gone with no Huawei smartglasses in sight.)
Anyway, according to Reuters, Google says it’s not giving up on Glass and remains committed to the project. But that doesn’t rule out a rethink of its strategy. A report from Wired suggests that the smart move for Google would be to do exactly what it’s done in the smartphone business – leave the hardware to the experts and supply the software platforms they’ll need to make them attractive:
Despite its struggles, Glass can boast that plenty of major apps run on its OS, including Google’s own. If Google opens up the Glass software platform the way it has Android, other hardware makers would likely flock to it.
If nothing else, a software-driven strategy would be a good way for Google to hedge its bets – not everyone is convinced the wearables market is worth chasing. One Forrester analyst expects wearables to be reduced to niche status by 2016.