Google Glass DOA: wearable computer killed off as Apple Watch launches


Google Glass, the wearable computing glasses, are officially dead on arrival. Google is no longer selling the product, without a new version to replace it, which means that the ambitious project is DOA – at least for now. The list of mistakes which Google made with Glass is substantial, from backwards development to misguided marketing on down. But there is still hope for the future of Glass, and that hope comes down to two words: Apple Watch.

Even as Google’s first wearable computing product is being scrapped, Apple’s first wearable computer is about to launch to significant demand. That means Glass didn’t fail because the public isn’t ready for wearables; it failed because Google got nearly every detail wrong. But that’s actually good news for the company.

Google’s first mistake with Glass was to release it at least a year before it was ready. The belief was that throwing a half finished product to market, but hand picking those who were allowed to buy it, would simultaneously open-source its feature development and build envy among the general public. Instead, the geeks chosen for the Google Glass experiment largely just used it to either aimlessly tinker around with it, or to wear it publicly in a manner which evoked resentment and scorn among the mainstream.

One geek posted pictures of himself wearing Glass while in the shower. Another made a point of getting himself kicked out of a restaurant which didn’t allow the product to be worn. Another got into a bar fight while wearing Glass and ended up getting it stolen right off her face. Meanwhile, even as Google continued to work on the interface and issue software patches, no real features (beyond being a head-mounted web cam) ever did emerge of any significance.

After a year of no real progress, Google decided to begin selling the product to the public – and inexplicably kept the $1500 beta test price tag intact. Few mainstream users were interested, and it ultimately led to this week’s cancelation of the product. But again, this is good news for those who hope the technology will take off.

How can I say that? Because, quite simply, Google get everything wrong with Glass – and yet it still managed to, if largely in a negative fashion, capture the public’s imagination. The launch of the Apple Watch, which is a fully finished product and will be sold in droves from day one, means that the market for Google Glass (or perhaps simply a Google Watch) is there.

Google just has to go back to the drawing board and rethink its approach to wearables from top to bottom. It’s still early enough in the game that there’s every reason to believe that Google can still be a substantial player in the wearable computing market. If and when Google Glass does come back to market it’ll need a finished interface, an actual feature set, a marketing plan targeted at mainstream consumers instead of the increasingly irrelevant geek chic crowd, and maybe even a new name to divorce itself from all the negative publicity. But the potential is still fully intact.