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Google Glass Is Dead? Google Glass Is Reborn? Yes. Both.
Current device won't be sold after next week as Google promises future versions "when they're ready."
Google has announced a series of major changes to the Google Glass project that has some saying “Glass is dead” and others saying “Glass is reborn.”
Both are correct.
What’s happening is a significant re-organization of Glass within Google’s corporate structure, as well as a reboot of how the Glass project will function publicly going forward. Here’s a look at what’s going on, from both sides.
Glass Is Dead
The company announced this morning that the Glass Explorer program is ending, and that Google will stop selling the current version of Glass on January 19.
Glass “Explorers” are all of the people (myself included) that have taken part in the beta launch of Google Glass since its launch in Spring 2013. The device was initially sold only via invites, but opened up more widely last year to anyone in the US and UK who was willing to spend $1500 (USD) to become an Explorer and help Google publicly test the device.
The Explorer program has been marred by several public incidents that put Explorers and the device itself in a bad light. They and it were mocked in a popular Daily Show video clip, and even one of Google’s Glass business partners said he was embarrassed by Glass.
Google originally planned to have a full launch of a consumer-friendly device in 2014, but that didn’t happen. As the year wore on, many developers abandoned their Glass projects — most notably, Twitter — but Google said it was still committed to releasing Glass “when it’s ready.” Even with today’s announcement, that’s still Google’s plan.
Glass Is Reborn
The bigger picture of Google’s announcement is that Glass is being moved out of Google[X], the company’s experimental lab where several of its “moonshot” products are being incubated (i.e., self-driving cars, internet access balloons, and so forth). Going forward, Google says Glass will operate on its own.
As The Verge and others are reporting, Ivy Ross will continue to lead Google Glass’ daily operations, but Nest’s Tony Fadell will take over the Glass project. The Wall Street Journal reports that the successful Glass At Work program, which helps business and enterprise users adopt Glass, will continue.
In its announcement today, Google says this isn’t the end of Glass.
“We’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready. (For now, no peeking.)”
That’s an important change of direction for Glass. Lead designer Isabelle Olsson recently talked about the challenge of developing Google Glass out in the public eye. “We took this stance that we wanted to design this with the world because it is so new and so innovative,” she told Fashionista.com. “That also exposes the real time it takes to take a product to market. Most [companies] do this behind closed doors for seven to 10 years.”
With its “no peeking” message and the closure of the Explorer program, Google is saying that Glass’ future development is moving behind closed doors.
Google’s post today ended with a promise that the future is “going to be an exciting ride.” What Glass looks like, what it does — what it is, essentially — when the ride is over is anyone’s guess.