The response to Google’s announcement about closing down the Google Glass Explorer program has been focused on the wrong side of the coin. Most commentators are making the case that ending the Explorers program is basically the end of Glass. Titles like these give a sense of that:
But the tone at Google is different. The team is positioning the transition to a ‘graduation from Google[x] Labs’, saying
Since we first met, interest in wearables has exploded and today it’s one of the most exciting areas in technology. Glass at Work has been growing and we’re seeing incredible developments with Glass in the workplace. As we look to the road ahead, we realize that we’ve outgrown the lab and so we’re officially “graduating” from Google[x] to be our own team here at Google. We’re thrilled to be moving even more from concept to reality.
Perhaps most importantly, the management of Google’s efforts in Glass-like wearables has been handed over to the Tony Fadell, the godfather of the iPod when he was at Apple, and most recently the founder and CEO of Nest, the Internet of things company that Google bought for $3.2 billion a year ago. Fadell is a visionary billionaire who has no need to be saddled with something he doesn’t believe in.
The best way to view this is more like the Newton ‘failing’ as a device, but the DNA of that failure setting the stage for the iPod and then the iPhone. Yes, Google Glass ‘failed’ to capture mass market interest, and Fadell might want to distance whatever comes later from the Google Glass name — Glasshole will be hard to get away from. But in the industries where the technology has made a dent — like medical application (see Wearables, earables, eyeables: Welcome to the next wave of computing) — the response was very positive.
Fadell also has to get back to basics and solve some of the key problems in the current design of Glass, like the battery being too small. It may be better to require pairing with a phone through low-power bluetooth so that some computation can be offloaded to save power and chips, and a single transmission pathway: dropping wifi. I am sure that the next generation eyeable from Google will be very, very different: it will be Nestified.
Eyeables are here to stay. Yes, Google perhaps brought the device to market too early (like the Newton, again), but there is a great deal of promise in what they learned.
Originally published at gigaom.com on January 16, 2015.