Google Glass blacklisters, haters and fashion police, rejoice. As of Jan. 19, Google is “closing the Explorer Program” it announced in a Google+ post yesterday afternoon. Google Glass fans, defendersand fashionistas, rejoice. It’s doing so to “focus on what’s coming next.”
It will be “developing the next generation of the controversial device out of the limelight that hurt the first version,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s Alistair Barr, by “moving from the Google X research lab to be a standalone unit.”
“Google has tried to present this announcement as just another step in the evolution of an amazing innovation. But make no mistake — Google Glass is dead, at least in its present form,” saysBBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.
The Explorer program was always billed as a beta version of Glass; the five frames and eight shades were available those with $1,500 to spare though its Play Store.
Yesterday’s announcement “means, in essence, that regular people will no longer be able to buy Google Glass,” writes Conor Dougherty for the New York Times. “The company will still have its Glass at Work program — a pilot initiative to use the device in areas like hospitals and factories — and the device will be available to ‘certified partners’ who are developing software for it.”
“Since its debut in 2012, Google Glass always faced a strong headwind. Even on celebrities it looked, well, dorky. The device itself, once released in the wild, was seen as half-baked, and developers lost interest. The press, already leery, was quick to dog pile, especially when Glass' users quickly became Glass' own worst enemy,” writes Jake Swearingen for TheAtlantic.com.
And that’s because “Google Glass wasn't just a way to keep a screen in front of your face all the time; it was also a way to record everything going on in front of you,” Swearington points out.
That proved to be a nettlesome feature.
“Google Glass may have appealed to a bunch of socially clueless ‘Glassholes’ who were oblivious to our privacy rights, but the device fulfilled no real consumer need,” Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director John M. Simpson says in a release. “I'm only surprised it took them so long to kill the program as we know it.”
Google Glass’ new home will be the Google Nest smarthome division. Tony Fadell, who was in charge of iPhone and iPod development at Apple before co-founding Nest, which Google bought a year ago for $3.2 billion in cash, runs the division.
“Current Glass head Ivy Ross will retain day-to-day authority, but she'll report to Fadell,” Nilay Patel reports on The Verge. “Nest itself will remain separate and independent, and Tony will still be in charge there as well.”
“The decision marks a significant expansion of Mr. Fadell’s responsibilities and throws him into a head-to-head contest with his former colleagues at Apple, whose Watch device, expected to go on sale soon, is the tech world’s other most closely followed experiment in the area,” write Richard Waters and Tim Bradshaw in Financial Times.
“Putting Mr. Fadell in charge suggested that Google would do more work on design while also looking for ways to make Glass more useful by integrating the technology with other connected home and car products,” according to Kantar Worldpanel analyst Carolina Milanesi, Waters and Bradshaw report.
“Time will tell” whether the Google Glass first iteration was a success or failure, writes ZDNet’s Larry Dignan, but he lists a handful of lessons learned — from “fashion matters” to “you need to move beyond what a smartphone would do” — and asks what he’s missed. Surprisingly, there were no takers for the first 12 hours after the piece was posted.
“As I've written before, my own opinion on why Glass (as we know it) didn't succeed is that Google took the easy route when it came to marketing,” Chris Davies writes on SlashGear.com. “After the whiz-bang promo video, which over-promised on functionality, the actual Explorer Edition was billed as a wearable camera first and foremost.”
Its true value was in the way it “enhances notifications” and Davies indicates that Google ought to be thinking forward to exploiting that feature in the ever-evolving Internet of Things. But lose the camera and improve the design.
“The ‘ooh-aah, we-live-in-the-future’ sheen has already fallen off, leading to pervasive and important discussions about privacy and the importance of living in the moment rather than always trying to augment it,” writes Chris Velazco on Engadget. But, he says, “If there's one guy who could help turn Google Glass into something people, regular people, would actually care about, it's probably [Fadell].”
We’ll be waiting, but not watching, and that’s probably a good thing for the future of the product, whatever it turns out to be.