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Founder Of Google Eyewear Partner “Embarrassed” By Glass
Remarks underscore Glass consumer-marketing challenges.
There are people who love Google Glass; I’m not one of them. Having tried it and used it off and on for months, I come down on the side of “interesting but ultimately not a very useful piece of hardware.”
While Google Glass is gaining adoption in certain enterprise contexts (e.g., Medicine) its consumer prospects appear limited. Currently, the device has a $1,500 price tag and still-clunky design. Google’s high-profile partnership with Luxottica, the world’s largest eyewear manufacturer, is supposed to change all that.
As hard as Google has tried to build futuristic fashion buzz around Glass, it has not succeeded. Thus, Google hopes that more consumer friendly designs and pricing from Luxottica will make Glass more appealing to the broader market.
It’s very awkward then that Luxottica founder and controlling shareholder Leonardo Del Vecchio told the Financial Times he would be “embarrassed” to wear Google Glass in public: “I have not used Google Glass. It would embarrass me going around with that on my face.”
That comment was embarrassing to both Google and Luxottica, which did PR damage control. According to quotes appearing in the Wall Street Journal the companies issued the following statements:
Google: “We look forward to working closely with Luxottica as we bring the consumer version to market.”
Luxottica: “Mr. Del Vecchio was making a joke about his age. Luxottica is completely committed to its partnership with Google and we have a team working flat out to be ready to launch the device in 2015.”
While Del Vecchio has nothing to do with the deal or day-to-day operations, his comment, whether a joke or a more serious statement about Glass aesthetics, illustrates the challenge in marketing the device to the consumer public. Google co-founder Sergey Brin hoped Glass would become a more “masculine” alternative to smartphones.
Yet, people are quite happy with their smartphones, while the outlook for wearables is still uncertain.
No doubt Luxottica will produce some interesting and consumer-friendly designs for Glass. Yet, in order to succeed they’ll need to minimize the Glass-specific hardware and bring the price down to sub-$500 (maybe sub-$300). Even if those things are achieved, the market could be quite limited — especially if Glass remains the butt of late-night jokes and a symbol of the divide between tech elites and “regular people.”
It’s too early to pronounce Glass a failed product — let’s wait for the Luxottica models — but it’s quite likely to join the Segway and Lytro camera as novel and interesting technologies that never quite caught on.