Google Glass soldiers on as a beacon of what Google’s wild eyed innovation can deliver for the future, even as Google+ is folded up in a reminder that the company’s strategy leaves a trail littered with strikeouts. Unlike Apple, which carefully calculates the potential for each of its products before selectively releasing them, Google launches new products with abandon. Taking a cue from the game of baseball, in which a player can strike out seventy percent of the time and still be a pioneer of the game if he delivers big in that thirty percent where he connects, Google launched Glass before determining what its feature set would even be, and launched Plus before figuring out how it was going to lure people away from Facebook. One of those moved as failed, but the other is still very much in play.
It’s suddenly become fashionable to hate on Google Glass, with the early development testers getting beaten up in a bar in one instance, and declaring the product not ready for prime time in a few other instances. And that’s to be expected, now that the product has been in the public eye for more than a year and still doesn’t have much of a feature set to speak of. But watch that change between now and the time that Glass officially comes to market, when those who had been on the outside of the pilot program looking in are suddenly given the chance to join the fray. And watch attitudes change further once the current $1500 pre-release price, which was set artificially high to keep out the looky-loos who weren’t going to take testing seriously, is reduced to perhaps a fourth that much when the public launch takes place.
With Google’s high volume, flop-heavy, home run targeting strategy for its product launches, the question becomes what it learns from a failure like Google+. Part of the problem is that the social network was opened up to tech geeks first, who then only invited other tech geeks – and by the time the mainstream was invited in, the whole thing looked like a really bad episode of the Big Bang Theory. If Google had placed greater emphasis on courting mainstream users from the start, Plus could have become a mainstream-friendly platform instead of beginning life as one big geek circle jerk. Now Google must figure out how to do the same with Google Glass, which is to get the product out of the geek bubble and reposition it as a product that can be compelling to average tech users who want to move beyond their smartphone. All the potential for Glass is still there.