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Google Glass and Hype

LukeW’s recent comments are broadly in line with my own gut feeling about Glass – it’s a great toy but not yet a great product.

Whether or not the consumer version will be a great product remains to be seen, but it highlights an interesting disjunction within Google. It’s still enormously important as a wearable computing experiment (and hats off to Google for conducting this experiment) but that doesn’t equate to importance as a fully-rounded product. Google often seems to launch products that are engineer-driven, somewhat experimental and quite niche.

Such products need time to organically grow a following and develop a strong use case (e.g. Wave, Buzz, the Chromebook Pixel). These products deserve quite a soft, tentative launch to iron out bugs and optimise the experience, but Google seems to launch them hard with the thunder of a hundred guns. Wave in particular was much-ballyhooed as “the future of online communication” when actual users found it confusing and didn’t see the value in switching to use Wave.

Product development at Google often seems disconnected from marketing activities, and the silicon valley trend of presenting any and everything as “disruptive” and “paradigm-changing” seems alive and well at Mountain View.

I think that’s really my issue with Glass – it’s an obvious experiment, and in no way yet deserves the epithet of “the next big thing”. Even if wearable computing is going to be a hugely important trend in consumer electronics (and it is) this is no way means that Google Glass, as a product, is going to succeed. Doing it first and doing it right are, as ever, two very different things.

My suspicion is that Glass will be successful niche product, in the same vein as say, GoPro. It has convincing use cases around video, photo, social and navigation – but the extra utility it provides here is marginal versus most consumers’ handsets. Convincing many consumers to purchase such a supplemental product may therefore prove difficult. Non of which is to say that I, as geek, do not want one – but I am not most users, a lesson much of the tech press would do well to learn.

MJ ParnellGoogle Glass and Hype

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