Thursday, January 02, 2014

Google Glass is doomed for 2014, but should be gold by 2020

Google's Glass smart eyewear product will fail as a product in 2014, said Robert Scoble on Tuesday. However, even he admitted that his prediction stretches the truth "a bit."

To be clear, it's those extra two words -- in 2014 -- that are the key to the story.

Google execs can stop hyperventilating. Scoble loves the idea of Google Glass. However, the version of Google Glass that is likely to be foisted on, er, sold to the public in 2014 -- not so much.

For one, Scoble still loves his Glass device, and as he notes, the devices currently in the hands of end users are prototypes, and many of the issues will be fixed or at least reduced. Still, there are a number of problems:

1) Battery life sucks. Battery life has suck since Glass was introduced. Considering the size of the device and the alloted battery space, that's not surprising. Still, Glass has to get to the point where it can be used for several hours (we won't even say a full day) without charging.

2) It's too expensive. Yes, $1,500 is the cost of a prototype, but unless the thing gets to a price point that attracts people, it won't sell in bunches. Scoble believes this will be $300, but that Google won't be able to drop the price below $500 in 2014.

3) The devices need a custom-fit and have a relatively steep learning curve. Thus, in addition to the BOM cost, there is the cost of having an employee spending an hour or two with a new user, just to get them online.

4) There are not enough apps. It's to be expected, and will probably be fixed within a few months of release, but still, it will be a pain point.

5) Speaking of apps, the current Glass UI can't handle a lot of apps. Consider trying to scroll through hundreds of apps, for example. In addition, if too many are installed it will decrease the value of voice recognition. "OK Glass, take a picture," meaning did you want the device to use the Path app, Instagram or what?

6) Photo sharing workflow sucks.

7) There needs to be a Facebook app.

8). Contextual filtering. An example would be that if someone was attending a conference, why is there no way to show an end user only tweets about that specific conference?

9) One interesting problem is something we have brought up before: the dehumanization of the human race. In other words, how many times do you see people never speaking to each other at dinner, but instead simply engrossed in their smartphones or tablets? That is going to be accentuated if Glass sees large-scale adoption.

10) Expectations are too high. While Glass has been around in the public knowledge base for going on two years now, it's expected that Apple's iWatch -- expected in 2014 -- will be a more finished product, and considering the front-and-center look of Glass, thus invite comparisons.

So Google Glass is doomed -- for 2014. As Scoble concludes:
So, what would I do if I were Google? Reset expectations. Say "this is really a product for 2020 that we're gonna build with you." First release is in 2014, but let's be honest, if it's $600 and dorky looking, it'll be doomed -- as long as expectations are so high.

By 2020 I'm quite convinced this will be a big deal and there will be lots of competitors by then. So, if you make it about 2020, then it isn't doomed. If it's about beating the Apple iWatch in 2014? Yes, totally doomed.

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