The Debacle of Google Glass

For the last 25 years, I have looked very closely at the adoption cycle of products and I have learned something very important. Seldom does a product, especially a hardware product, find favor quickly with the broad consumer market. Video recording devices were refined and used in professional markets for over a decade before VCRs made it into the living rooms of consumers. PCs spent well over a decade in offices before they became cheap enough for the home and made sense for consumers. I could detail dozens of other examples but the bottom line is most technology gets started and refined in what we call vertical markets well before they get perfected and priced low enough for consumers.

When Google introduced their Google Glass, this was the first thing that came to mind about this project. I wondered if Google even had a clue how tech adoption cycles develop. While it is true glasses had been used in vertical markets since 1998, even after all of this time, we saw no interest by consumers. Google’s decision to aim Glass at consumers first, yet price them as if they were going to vertical markets, stumped me. Even the folks who had spent decades making specialized glasses for use in manufacturing, government applications, and transportation were dumfounded by Google’s consumer focus with Google Glass, priced at $1500.

Apparently, Google found out the hard way how tech products get adopted. They lost hundreds of millions of dollars on this project and, worse yet, they soured the consumer market for similar products. Even those with disposable income who could afford to be a Glass Explorer have to feel taken as Google used them as beta testers at their personal expense. I have seen a recent private report that details the damage in consumer minds about Google Glass and, even if a competitor came to market with a cheaper product better than Glass, they would have a hard time getting anything but vertical users interested.

That is not to say Google Glass 2.0, rumored to be in the works, or even future products like this could gain consumer traction some day, but it will come at a deep marketing cost and may be well into the future if they get accepted at all. In the mean time, products like Sony’s Morpheus, Facebook’s Oculus and even Microsoft’s HoloLens will take aim at a higher-end gaming audience or those focused on virtual and augmented reality and be priced like vertical market products — well out of reach for the general consumer for a long time.

But even if Google Glass 2.0 comes out or others create glasses similar at cheaper prices, I see them as being dead in the water for consumers for quite some time. While Google was playing with Glass, Apple brought out the ideal extension of your smartphone in the form of a watch.

I was a Google Glass Explorer and the experience was horrible from the start. Google Glass now sits in my office museum of failed products. The UI was terrible, the connection unreliable, and the info it delivered had little use to me. It was the worst $1500 I have ever spent in my life. On the other hand, as a researcher, it was a great tool to help me understand what not to do when creating a product for the consumer.

Now, think about Google’s objective to deliver information from my smartphone through a tiny lens on glasses vs Apple’s approach to delivering that same info on a screen on my wrist. My 42 mm Apple Watch face looks like a giant screen by comparison. What I think the market will soon realize is Google’s goal of extending smartphone data to glasses was never a viable product, at least for a broad consumer market. On the other hand, it appears the best wearable to do this is a smart screen on the wrist.

During the Google Glasses hype I saw many people suggesting Apple jump in and do glasses of their own. We now know the Apple Watch had been in the works well before Google Glass came out and Apple already knew the best way to extend the info from a smartphone to a wearable would be via the wrist, not through glasses. To be fair, Google also did smartwatches but they created more of an API for wearables and put the burden on partners for any hardware innovation. I used Google watches for 18 months and while serviceable, they never fulfilled the roll of mirroring a smartphone either.

Google glasses was a debacle for multiple reasons. It gave Google a black eye in the minds of consumers and cost them a lot in the way of consumer confidence when it comes to their efforts in hardware. It also tainted the market for consumer glasses for them and competitors in the future beyond how these products can be used in vertical markets. It also proved to be a debacle for a lot of partners who lost serious money on the Google Glass project. I spoke at a major customer conference of a company who was highly focused on the optical side of the glass. For years, they were very successful in vertical markets but were pulled into the consumer glasses area by Google and the media hype and tried to convince their own customers to jump into the space with competitive products. To their chagrin, most of their customers passed on this and I am sure they are glad they did.

In the end, I think Google’s objective of delivering hands-free information from a smartphone is a viable concept. I just don’t think their glasses will ever be the ideal way to do this and, at least for consumers, it will never become an optimal way to deliver this mirrored data. On the other hand, no pun intended, the smartwatch accomplishes the same goal in a fashionable and non-intrusive way and I suspect it will become the de facto standard for complimenting the smartphone to a wearable device for those in the market who desire this experience.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

827 thoughts on “The Debacle of Google Glass”

  1. “While Google was playing with Glass, Apple brought out the ideal extension of your smartphone in the form of a watch.”.
    Mmmmm, full Android and Android Wear watches (and others) came out over a year before the iWatch. Sentence should be: “While Google was innovating with Glass and Smartwatches, Apple was waiting to see which would pan out and be worth copying”. Same as for phablets, except they avoided the amusing “designed for your hands” “we take that back” dance this time.

    I’m not sure what your beef with Google is, but this column is biased beyond belief and factually untrue.

    Regarding smart glasses, I do think Google first attempt was a case of “let’s do what we can” instead of “what do users need ?”. I’m hopeful for the long term, and think glasses might be more complementary than watches. My smartwatch is in the junk drawer: it’s just a tiny not-phone, more disruptive/cumbersome to handle than the real thing (it requires 2 hands instead of 1, and more gesturing) and much less useful/capable. Then again, I’m not the “let’s send my heartbeat” type.

    1. Was Google “innovating” with smartwatches, or were its OEM’s? One of the points of the article is that Google is not great at hardware — neither its design, integration, execution, nor roll-out.

      Regarding the integration and usability (note that Tim thought the UI was terrible) it seems to me that Android Wear is more of an API than a properly conceived OS/UI for glasses OR Watches. Of course, Apple’s OS/UI for the Apple Watch should count as innovation — not sure where the “copying” comes in.

      “I’m hopeful for the long term, and think glasses might be more complementary than watches.” And that’s just the problem: depends on who makes the glasses or watches, their integration with the phone, the UI, and what it is that makes them “complementary” or useful. You might as well say, “I find glasses more complementary to my outfit than a wearing a watch.” So? I find roofracks more “complementary” to cars than trailers …but it depends on the roofrack and the trailer, and the job to be done.

    2. I completely doubt that “Apple was waiting to see which would pan out and be worth copying.” That statement pretty much shows your built-in bias, and your completely missing the point of this article.

      According to Apple, Tim Cook approved the Watch project in fall 2011, soon after Jobs’ death, and before any Android Wear release. Between 2011 and 2015, Apple (and partners) developed the Watch hardware and software (such as sapphire glass, S1 chip, digital crown, ForceTouch, SDK). It conscientiously worked on defining the retailing experience and marketing message. And equally as important, Apple focused on getting all the other ecosystem pre-requisites or co-requisites to market, such as TouchID/Secure Enclave, Apple Pay, HomeKit, and HealthKit.

      It’s the difference between releasing an unfinished or beta product, and a product with a real chance of succeeding in the consumer market. Which I think was the point of this article.

      1. I would have been better if it was “Apple was waiting to see where current products fell short, so they can fix it”. Android Wear and Pebble were certainly well ahead of Watch for those deficiencies to be public.

        But this is to Apple’s credit. They’ve been stealing candy from morons, I mean babies.

        Where I remain critical is to those that bring the air of “Apple invented everything”, because they didn’t. You can always tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs.

        1. I don’t disagree with that. Clearly, the first iPhone was partly based on seeing where that current crop of smartphones fell short in accomplishing the jobs they were trying to do. The other part is having a vision for the additional jobs that could be done by a product, and developing all the pieces (hardware, software, ecosystem, marketing, retailing, support) to enable jobs to be done and done well (i.e., satisfying experience).

        2. The problem with your comment is, it’s not the Apple fans who say Apple invented everything. They always, and forever, talk about how Apple enters a market at just the right time to transform it.

          It’s the Apple haters who go on and on about something that nobody actually says. It’s like anti-fan fiction.

      2. Yet the two most respected and unbiased review sites I know of are not finding the iWatch very good in the absolute, nor much better than 1 year old competitors, and urge waiting for a better, later model:

        http://arstechnica.com/apple/2015/05/review-the-absolutely-optional-apple-watch-and-watch-os-1-0/7/#h10 = “tricky to learn”, “can be flaky”, “consistently slow”

        http://www.lesnumeriques.com/montre-connectee/apple-watch-sport-p23115/test.html = same but in French, adds “not waterproof even the Sport model” and “work badly for phone conversations”

        1. But did they say it was like a “beta”? I think everyone
          recognizes that a version 1 product can be tricky to learn and flaky, but if there’s enough that works well, and enough that there is promise for the future, people will take the chance and then stick with it. Note arstechnica says “Apple Pay works well”, “Fitness features are basic, but well-implemented”, “Screen looks great anywhere except under bright, direct sunlight”, etc. Other reviewers say Apple’s apps are responsive; only third-party apps are slow.

          The 2007 iPhone had a learning curve (which Apple tried to show wasn’t that hard through many TV ads) and some functions were much slower (2G Internet) than desired. But like the Watch, some functions worked really well and people could see the future promise (even Google!), especially after third-party apps arrived.

          Finally, from the same arstechnica conclusion: “The good news is that the watch does enough useful things that you can probably justify your purchase.” I don’t think that was the consensus for Google Glass.

          1. The glasses are not in the same category: they *were* beta (tough they *have* found several (pro) niches nonetheless).

            It takes an incredible amount of naïveté or bad faith to evaluate a retail product and a beta product with the same criteria. Apple have a culture of deciding what’s good for the customer, and the… fortitude… to do “designed for your hand” PR U-turns; Google have a culture of putting stuff out there and tweaking or killing it. For some reason the experimenting draws flack, the PR hypocrisy doesn’t… That’s a disquieting value system.

          2. I think my comparison was not so much of the products themselves; but rather of the process used to successfully launch a product into a brand-new market.

            Isn’t Tim’s point that Google should not have launched a beta Glass product for $1500 with widespread publicity if their true goal was to gain mainstream consumer market acceptance for such a brand-new-market-creating product? With the contrasting and better approach being Apple’s keep-it-hidden, wait-until-it’s-v1.0-ready-then-hold-a-launch-with-widespread-publicity.

        2. So if the reviewer from Ars keeps his watch, does that mean it’s good?

          Sorry, my French is bad, so I can’t read the other review.

          1. ^^ I’m on the Android side of the fence. Got an LG G Watch on sale for $80, and I’m not using it. It’s more disruptive and cumbersome to handle than my phone, and less capable. Plus I actually find the position it requires uncomfortable: I’d much rather dictate a text into my hand than my wrist, both use up an arm anyway (the watch more often than not uses up 2, for touching the screen).
            I was a computer, PC, Palm, Smartphone, MP3 player, laptop, phablet, tablet… early adopter. Wondering if I’m getting old or if most everyone else is deluded… don’t answer ^^

        3. You completely distorted the message of those reviews by cherry picking the points you want them to make, when in reality they don’t. And they most certainly don’t say that it’s not much better than the competition. You can’t even get the name of the watch right.

      3. Excellent observations, Mark. It is the art of patience in practice. Apple plans well before it jumps into any market.
        What I find interesting is that the matter of ‘size’ is judged as innovation. Apple designs a smart phone that changes the direction of smart phones. Others learn from its art and the path abruptly changes. Then someone makes a size change, Apple waits to choose the time to make a larger phone and when it does, is accused of copying.
        When emotion and agenda rule, logic and reason sit vacant on the back burner.
        N/C
        mhikl

        1. I generally agree with your comments, but on the issue of size, there is potential for that to be a key component and substance of the innovation. For example, the first minivan was innovative, with a big part of that being size. Back to electronics, the iPad was innovative, because it took advantage of its size to add more useful elements to a single screen.

          So the question I have is: was there something in going to the phablet size that made it innovative? Did users being able to see everything larger, or to see more of a webpage on a single screen make such a usability difference that one could deem it as innovative? I haven’t come to a conclusion yet.

      4. Again, if you look at the famous Apple meeting agenda, one of the most prominent things they do there is look at the competition’s ads, and benchmarks key elements of their ecosystem vs Google. Apple designing things in a vacuum is a PR myth, soundly disproved by their own internal meeting agenda.

        1. And? What exactly do you think you’ve proven? If this is your ‘gotcha moment’ it’s terribly weak. Gasp! Apple is aware of other companies and products/services! Say it ain’t so… oy.

        2. When did Apple or anyone else say that Apple designs things in a vacuum?

          But Apple absolutely was not waiting to see which of Google Glass or a smartwatch would “pan out and be worth copying”. At the D conf in May 2013, Cook talked about wrist wearables being “natural” and “interesting”, and panning glasses with “I don’t know a lot of people that wear them that don’t have to.” And they already hired Kevin Lynch to work on Watch before that in March 2013.

          Plus, if you haven’t noticed, the Apple Watch is being criticized for being too different from other smartwatches. Which of the others has anything like Force Touch or Digital Crown? Which allows for sending heartbeats, or drawings?

    3. “Then again, I’m not the “let’s send my heartbeat” type.”

      Now there’s a true statement… 😉

      1. Not every function is for everyone. There still appear to be love struck teenagers around, even some married people.

      2. At least don’t do it to a potential employer to prove they’re hiring a live person.

        I just can’t see Jony Ive sending Phil Schiller his heartbeat.

    4. Question: If Google Glass (or other smart eyeglass device) doesn’t require using your hands, then why couldn’t a smartwatch also not require using your hands?

      1. “Question: If Google Glass (or other smart eyeglass device) doesn’t require using your hands, then why couldn’t a smartwatch also not require using your hands?”

        Mmmmm Because they are by default in front of my eyes, not hidden under my shirt sleeve, turned away, askew, and too far from sight; and work with voice right where they’re at, not with the other hand’s touch or a large gesture to bring them closer to my mouth ?

        1. It wasn’t a sarcastic or rhetorical question, as there’s no way I would’ve paid for one and I’ve never seen anyone use it. I was interested in its input options, and so you say the only input to the Glass is voice. Can the Glass hear if its wearer is speaking in a whisper?

          1. Mark, you sure have an understanding of Socrates & his mischief, methods. 🙂
            “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

            Dang hard lesson for most to employ.
            Namaste and care,
            mhikl

        2. “Because they are by default in front of my eyes”

          To me, this is what makes it more obtrusive.

          Joe

          1. There’s 1- obtrusive as in you see them, 2- obtrusive as in people see you with them, and then there’s 3- disruptive as in using that breaks my work flow. I think all 3 are relevant.

            1- I’ve been told glasses are transparent, and that lots of people manage to live happily looking at the world through them( I’ll be joining them soon, probably, and not for love of Google ^^). I don’t mind sun glasses, I could live with non-vision glasses if they add value
            2- I’ve been ridiculed since my first phablet, and I’ve dropped out of the fashion-conscious crowd a decade ago, so people will have to learn to cope with my smartglassses if I take them up. Plus some think of (sun-) glasses as fashion accessories… we’ll say that’s what my nerdglasses are too, only… smart, not just costly.
            3- Again, I find the watch more disruptive than my phone, and I imagine glasses would be less disruptive in some cases (look ! no hands !). I’m not willing to pay $1.500 and start perma-filming my life to find out though.

          2. The closest analogy I can think of is HUDs. But the purpose of those are not to disappear, but to be ever present. And when comparing what Apple seems to think a Watch is for vs Glass/Android Wear (based only on what I’ve read as I’ve not tried either yet, which is why I try not to get too far into these discussions except philosophically), I would rather a device that doesn’t require my attention until I am ready to look or notifies me in a way that I have determined for things that I want to see. To me that is unobtrusive.

            But that is how I have set up my phone, too. The only advantage of the Watch would be, as S. Gorilla has explained, an integrated device with the phone, an extension of it. I think Samsung marketed their watch completely wrong—as a phone replacement. As you’ve commented, using a watch as a phone makes no sense. Which is why I think Apple has avoided that as a potential feature.

            Joe

          3. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to use a wearable device like a watch on its own, but that is a long ways off. The combination of iPhone (engine) plus Apple Watch (note that obart calls it the iWatch, such a transparent immature affectation) will always be more powerful and useful than a standalone device. I see an Apple Network of Things on the horizon, driven by this distributed computing model. The Apple Watch won’t be the only ‘accessory’.

          4. “(note that obart calls it the iWatch, such a transparent immature affectation)”

            We are all guilty of throwing in gristle with our cuts of meat in these discussions. I try my best to ignore it until it becomes an obstacle, until it is just too much gristle. At that point these days I usually just stop responding. No point in wasting my efforts.

            Joe

          5. could be worse, I could be using nickames instead of a person’s full handle. An then presume to lecture them about naming…

          6. No lecture involved. You’re using the term iWatch on purpose, or you don’t actually know that’s incorrect. Pick one. Now you’ve got an opportunity to start using the proper name. Either do it, or don’t. Your choice.

          7. Same for you about my handle. Only I’m a person, not an object. Someday you might start to grok the difference.
            Edit/PS: everybody was using iWatch not so long ago, and nobody was taking issue.. maybe you’re way oversensitive ?

          8. Nice deflection, you should play goal in the NHL. So now that you’re aware of the proper name of the product (Apple Watch) you can choose to use it, or continue to use the incorrect name. That’s up to you.

            I can easily use your full handle, obarthelemy, that’s no problem at all. Lots of people shorten my nickname, which I’d say is fine, in context it’s a lot like saying the Watch instead of the full Apple Watch. But the issue here is your use of an incorrect product name, on purpose, as a way to deride it. You know what you’re doing, don’t pretend you don’t. It’s childish. Step up and correct yourself, or don’t.

          9. Well, it just seems strange that you resent people doing to an object what you yourself feel free to do to people. Using my correct name was indeed up to you too, since day one. Glad you’re finally chosen to be polite, I just had to point out your hypocrisy on the matter.

            The French saying is “do as I say, not as I do”, and it’s an easy way to spot… people not worth wasting time on, to remain polite since I feel I must.

            Edit/PS: how is iWatch derision, but not iPad, iPhone, iMac ? Looks like paranoia to me. Among other things.

          10. Short versions of long names are quite normal. The French people I know love nicknames and use them all the time. Ever play hockey? Your hockey name would probably be obs or bartsy. Mine was my mother’s name. The issue isn’t people’s nicknames, you’re using that to deflect, simple as that.

            I shouldn’t need to point this out, but iPad, iPhone, iMac, are the actual product names while iWatch is not. The issue here isn’t whether or not your feelings were hurt because I used a short version of your name, obart, instead of obarthelemy. You have a choice now, use the correct name for Apple Watch, or don’t. It’ll be interesting to see what you do, there’s a lot of ego wrapped up in this for you.

          11. iWatch is calling it by the name rumor mongers gave it. It’s current connotative meaning is dismissive. The actual name doesn’t give you the “sneer” you think it requires. The denotative meaning, well, there is none.

          12. Actually, there are several standalone (w/ data) smartwatches, either Android or Tizen. So you can do that today. Not with something a supermodel on Vogue’s covers wore, though.

          13. Nope, we’re years away from anyone offering what I’m talking about, standalone Android/Tizen included. But even then, add a pocket computer to the mix and you’ve got even more power. That’s the point.

    5. The reason your smart watch is in the junk drawer is because it is not a well thought out Apple product. A likely scenario is that Google and others believed that Apple was coming out with a smart watch and wanted to beat them to market. Doing so means cutting corners and one gets the appropriate result.

    6. Talk about factually challenged. Calling the Apple Watch (not iWatch, as Fandroids no doubt want to brand it) a copy of anything else out there is like calling Picasso a paint by numbers artist.

  2. I appreciate your insight that tech products tend to first be adopted in vertical markets, and then find their way to consumers only after they become more approachable and cheaper. I agree on how that argument applies to Google Glass.

    However, that leaves the question of Apple. Although the success of Apple Watch is not yet a sure thing, it would seem that it was able to skip the vertical market phase.

    My question is, why do you think Apple is able to do this? Why do you think Apple is capable of bringing products to the consumer markets, without spending time in verticals?

    I personally think that it is part of what Steve Jobs meant and what Larry Page ignored when Jobs talked about focus.

    1. As I included in my reply to obart, I can think of at least three other things Apple invested in (though not perfectly):
      1. Ecosystem – pre-requisites and co-requisites like TouchID/Secure Enclave, Apple Pay, HomeKit, HealthKit. One could still argue that Apple Pay and HomeKit didn’t get out early enough for the Watch.
      2. Retailing experience and marketing message, both of which many still find flaws with (no in-store purchase/pickup, no clear “need”, etc)
      3. Personalization via materials, given that it is worn. Again, even here, there are still questions about Apple’s strategy (>$10000) and choices (including the limited number of choices).

      1. Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with each of the items that you raise.

        On a higher level though, do you think that Google, Samsung or any other company with humongous resources could pull it off, or is it just Apple that can coordinate all this? Or to put it another way, why couldn’t Google succeed, first with Google Glass and second with Android Wear? Clearly it was not for a lack of money.

        I trace it back to Larry Page ignoring Steve Jobs’ advice on focus. To be able to tick all the items that you list, the whole company had to execute for many years under a single general direction, and it is evident that Apple was doing this even before the Apple Watch concept was conceived. It seems to me that in order to crack the consumer market without doing the gradual “verticals” stuff, you need *that* much wood behind the arrow, and having all the resources in the world is not going to help unless you have focus.

        The “throw spaghetti on the wall” approach that both Google and Samsung adopt, does not allow for a company-wide, coordinated effort. Even if the R&D budget for each individual project is huge, without company-wide coordination spanning many years back, this is not enough. That is why I think they fail to successfully market new category devices.

        Therefore, projecting into the future, I don’t see neither Google nor Samsung succeeding in introducing any new consumer category device. I don’t think that it was the creepiness of Google Glass per se that caused it to fail. I think that even if Google and Samsung came up with the exact same idea that Apple did with the watch, they would still fail.

        On the other hand, the spaghetti hurling approach seems to be very suitable for a fast-follower approach to the market. The problem for Samsung and even eventually Google is of course, the Chinese will probably become much better at the copying game.

        I’m not sure that my prediction is correct but the evidence that I observe (for example, Android Wear is very similar in concept to the Apple Watch), seems to point in this direction.

        1. You raise good questions, and I think you have most of the answer,

          I think Google does focus and have a company-wide, coordinated effort. But it’s focus is not on making great consumer devices — rather, it’s focus is on making great products for its true customers – namely, the paying companies who buy ads. So it is putting wood behind the arrow — it’s just a different arrow. Google is doing whatever it can to increase the number of people who can see its ads; improve its algorithms to mine the data to deliver the right ads; etc.

          I think Samsung is a far less focused conglomerate. I think its best expertise is in developing components (chips, screens, etc) and it sells products to consumers as a way to consume its components and move up the food chain for larger margins and profits. For consumer products, Samsung is only a good fast follower. It needs to decide what it really wants to be.

          1. So, how does a Google self-driving car promote its true agenda? Some people have told me they believe Google’s idea is to display ads during trips, something taxis and subways also do, but in a private vehicle the ads could be highly targeted, and thus more lucrative. Still, this theory sounds trivial and weak. — Perhaps the glass could be made opaque, to force passengers to view ads instead of the passing scenery.

          2. I’m not sure. I agree the display ad theory is weak, especially since one can assume the people in the cars have mobile devices. Possibly Google thinks that if the driver didn’t need to drive the car, she/he could be consuming more information and ads instead.

            I’m more inclined to go with the theory that this, like Glass, is Google trying to take and expand its core competency in AI and data mining to the visual realm (with the resulting benefits to its advertising business), PLUS applying it to a new domain for the purpose of diversifying from that advertising business.

            So I should probably add that Google via Nest (which they claim will not be used for advertising) is attempting to enter a second business of smart consumer products. And it looks like they’ve already realized that they need Nest’s consumer product business competency to better launch consumer products like Glass.

        2. Naofumi, i think you judge Google incorrectly. The fact that they have a different innovation style , doesn’t mean they cannot create successful consumer products. Google did create android, and chromecast, and chromebook and they they all seem to sell pretty well. .

          And the things they build aren’t that easy to copy, say by the Chinese.

          I think in the end, this comes down to Page/Brin’s motivations , with one of the biggest being to create lots of innovations and “bring the future”. The fastest way to do so is by trying many ideas(spaghetti throwing), collaborating with everyone, and building ecosystems.

          1. Android and Chromecast were not examples of spaghetti throwing. The Android project was initially an attempt to create a Blackberry competitor, and later redesigned to resemble the iPhone. The knew what they needed to succeed because there was already a successful product in the market. Zero need for spaghetti throwing. Similarly, Chromecast came only after Apple saw success with the new Apple TV which focused on streaming and removed the hard disk from the device. In both cases, Google was aiming to replicate a pre-existing and successful product. Google clearly knew what they should be aiming for.

            On the other hand, Chrome OS was an attempt to do something new. With the first product introduced in 2011 and having a history almost as long as the iPad, but still having negligible impact on any usage statistic, it’s hard to argue that Spaghetti throwing was a fast way to succeed.

          2. In a sense you can say similar things about the iPhone(copied nokia , improved the UI, and used unique ability to pressure carriers – but surely was a great product), and the Apple watch – they surely learned stuff from seeing how people responded to Google’s watch.

            So our lesson here should be – never be first to the market, but aim to be last to the market(in that there’s no better future product). That’s a general decent lesson for businesses.

            But i’m not sure that squares with wanting to be innovative.

          3. No.

            The iPhone clearly broke the trend. It was very different from the popular smartphones at the time. The removal of the hardware keyboard alone is significant.

            As for Google’s watch. Well virtually nobody was positively responding. Nothing that you could copy with any level of confidence there. None of what was in the Google watch spaghetti had stuck to the wall.

          4. They say that subsequent orders are running at under 30,000 per day in the US only. For simplicity, we could assume that worldwide, they would be like 100,000 per day. If we multiply by 365, that’s 36.5 million. Also consider that many Apple Watches will be sold as gifts and will be sold in Q4. Q4 sales could easily be double the current run rate.

            Not bad at all.

    2. Just saw this quote from Nadella talking about HoloLens in a NYTimes interview: “One lesson learned is you’ve got to finish the scenario with excellence,” said Mr. Nadella, who speaks in verbal arpeggios, emphasizing points with octave-leaping sentences. “You just cannot stop. You have to complete this, and I think that’s where Apple has taught us all what experience excellence means in the creation of categories.”

  3. Google Glass failed because too many people hated it!

    To put it in the simplest terms, it was antisocial.

    1. I think that having the benefits of usage in appropriate vertical markets would have helped elucidate why Google Glass, as released, might have been perceived as antisocial. A field technician working on a copier, computer, phone system, etc. would have benefitted from some of the functionality. They also would typically not be expected to display the same social behavior while actually working on whatever their target device might be. Glass would likely have proven to be a useful tool in this context.

      But, when interacting directly with their customers as part of their service calls, they might have picked up on some of the cues that made Glass seem antisocial in that context. This could have been useful feedback for Google before choosing what functionality to release in a consumer version of the product thereby minimizing the antisocial perception in the consumer realm.

      I think part of Tim’s point is that it didn’t have to be a failed product but that Google didn’t go about things in a manner that gave it much chance to not be a failed product.

      1. Spot On

        Google should have done closed testing in the vertical markets and fields that you mentioned.

        Google Glass could have been tested and refined through feedback.

        Instead, most of the Google Glass went bloggers and tech journalists who got pushback in public and got Google Glass a lot of bad publicity.

      2. Glass could have been useful if it wasn’t produced by Google. It’s sole purpose was to gather more data and provide an in your face shopping channel. So many things it could have been, but none from Google.

        1. Agreed. Motivations of the creators always seem to manifest themselves in their products. It’s kind of like many of Apple’s competitors going: “Look, we put some ‘design’ in our products, too! What aren’t you buying them?”

      3. yes – Google was actively trying to get its “explorers” out there in social – but Glass is rude like someone pulling out their phone in the middle of a conversation, but with added creepiness to it… for certain trades – Glass could have been very useful – tech, mechanic, surgeon, etc… for on the job things – (i.e. – not social!).

      1. I agree, but how different was it really from the people that used to go around with VHS Camcorders? It’s not like Glass is any more discreet.

  4. Google Glass is an interesting concept. I’m not sure Google has enough experience making hardware to really nail it though. But I’m also sure something like Glass is the next Segway. There’s a lot of very good use cases for the product, but it isn’t mass market.

    1. Google Glass, like Segway and bluetooth earphone-mikes are products that were conceived with totally no thought at all about the conventions of socially acceptable human behavior that would surround usage of the product. I think of them as F-You products because the message it sends to people around the person using the product is “I don’t care if my using this annoys you, invades your physical, aural and social personal space, or threatens your sense of privacy. I’m using it and if you don’t like it, f**k you.”

      I might add that this is the kind of design blunder that Apple minimizes by choosing to sit on the “intersection of technology and the liberal arts”.

      1. I’ve long thought that about the use of cell phones in public. Rude people show little restraint, speaking loudly and insistently, coming off as self-important. There ought to be a law.

          1. insistently — like speaking forcefully, using strong and pointed language, issuing instructions, arguing, etc.

  5. Google’s problem is its sense of hubris. The difference between Apple and Google when it comes to the study and understanding of new products is patience, study, time and timing. Google, like a little kid in a candy store lacks restraint. Apple takes all the time it needs to study all the choices and possibilities and then practices the art of dismissal—the most important and difficult of actions.
    The iPhone came from its research & plans for a tablet (the future iPad) and then it made the important choice to set the project on the back burner when it realised it could merge the iPod and a cell phone and the iPhone became its focus. Such is the difference between the choices an exuberant teenager makes and the better, safer, more promising choice made in his graduation to adulthood.
    The important question in all this is what lessons Google has learned from its exuberant plunges into failed projects. In the life of reality, some mature and go on to make better choices, learning from their successes and failures. To others, disillusion marks them for a long time and the dreams of youth fade into the bitterness of failed dreams.
    Namaste and care,
    mhikl

    1. Google thinks they can develop hardware the way they develop software. Lay it all out there as soon as you have a more-or-less workable product, fix any problems and defects on the fly, and let the customers tell you what features and products sell and what don’t.

      The third one is telling. It reveals that Google does not understand the customer. Either because they don’t want to make the effort, or even if they do, they don’t have the skill set for it. My guess is the latter.

        1. I think Sergy Brin (sp?) just got excited about Glass and wanted to show the whole world. Apple would have kept it under wraps for at least 5+ years or more.

        2. I don’t disagree with you, in fact I had half a mind to replace ‘customer’ with ‘user’. But the topic is about how Google’s consumer products are crappy and why, and thought it would derail the thread to raise the costumer v. user issue.

    2. I don’t think “exuberant plunges into failed projects” is hubris. How could they have made clearer then the “Glass Explorer” program was a beta test ? They try stuff out because they don’t presume to know what will work and exactly how, that’s the opposite of hubris. Hubris is making an ad about a phone “designed for your hands” then releasing a phone “designed for “.. something bigger than my fingers ? a year later; saying “people shoudln’t be able to choose their phone’s color and material”, “you’re holding it wrong”, etc…

      I know being told daddy is not sure of something, and that he makes mistakes, is disquieting. Some do choose to grow up anyway.

        1. I believe beta products can be consumed by the general public but if beta lasts 2-years it’s a clear indicator the developer never had a clear vision.

      1. Google Glass was not a beta test – it was an alpha test – for alpha geeks and it even failed there – since there was no actual use for the product, though I guess it had (and maybe still has) lots of potential. Maybe in 10 years…

        I always though of GG as a niche product – for a profession or industry where hands free data would be a big advantage – say for surgery/doctors, mechanics or similar where they are working on highly complicated things – with their hands and may need data – or an assist.

        1. I agree it was closer to an alpha. I don’t agree with the failure moniker though: experiments don’t fail, they have results which prove or disprove stuff, and that’s valuable both ways. Hopefully Google learned that perma-filming is often not OK, and that one size can’t fit all – professionals will pay big bucks for a life-saving/timesaving/moneymaking aid; consumers want a socially acceptable nice-looking gadget, even if it does much less.

          To me the main enduring issue is input: speaking to myself will get old quick, and don’t want to raise my hand to my glasses all the time, I don’t think I’d like flicking my gaze every which way to act on notifications… can they make a functionally+socially acceptable touch ring ?

      2. I agree that Google made it clear that the Glass was still in beta phase. However, what matters is the results. And the result was, if the author of this article is to be believed, that consumer confidence was hurt badly and more importantly, that it was a serious debacle for their partners who lost significant money.

        An experiment would normally be designed so that even if it was a failure, there would be minimal destruction. However, because Google hyped Glass so much, too early, they seriously negatively impacted themselves, their partners, and the wearable eyewear category as a whole.

        Google should have conducted the experiment more discreetly, even in secret like Apple would do it. I expect them to try harder to do so next time. The question is, can they?

        1. What I always found perplexing is why make a product that simulates glasses in the first place? Especially with so many people having lasik surgery performed so they don’t have to wear glasses. Of any kind, “smart” or not.

          I personally don’t think there’s a future for Glass. Not from a consumer standpoint anyway. I can see it thriving in the medical or construction vertical but can’t imagine the hot girl at the bar wearing Glass.

          She might wear an Apple Watch or Android Wear watch but putting on glass-less frames with a bulky, warm computer on the right side seems less likely.

          1. A similar argument is actually being made for the Apple Watch by pundits who cite how few people wear wristwatches. I do agree that watches are much more acceptable than glasses, but I still think that they are on the same tangent. Hence a company-wide effort is necessary to convince consumers in both cases, that they need to strap an often uncomfortable and conspicuous device on their bodies.

          2. “…pundits who cite how few people wear wristwatches.”

            Sorry, but you’re very, very, very wrong. According the MarketWatch the wristwatch market has an average annual market value of $6 billion. That’s mainly because of luxury brands but that’s not to say the wristwatch market is dead. Any business earning $6 billion a year is anything but insignificant.

            Moreover, I believe the recent surge of smartwatches will spark new interest in wristwatches and wearables in general. With Apple’s entry into the market “dumb” watches and Google/Samsung alternatives will get more attention. Possibly to the point where people will embrace the simplicity of a standard watch over the complexity of a smartwatch that requires nightly charging.

          3. I’m trying to keep an open mind here.

            I personally believe that wristwatch wearers are more common. However, more importantly, and as Horace Dediu has pointed out, the market size is not determined by the current wristwatch market, but rather by the number of wrists. Similarly, the potential market size of a Glass-like device is determined not by the current perception of glasses, but rather by the number of heads.

            And if you’re looking for the market size of glasses, take a look at the east asian market. Take a look at any random photo of Chinese citizens living in cities (a video of a Apple Store opening for example). See how many people are wearing glasses. Of course many people don’t like wearing glasses so they will eventually have surgery or wear contacts, depending on income level and comfortability (in the case of contacts). What I’m saying is that current sales are not a good indicator, regardless of which direction you intend to make the argument.

            Regarding Android Wear, yes it was a bit more successful than Google Glass, but it was hardly successful either. Whether you wear a computer on your wrist or on your head does not really matter as of itself. Of course Android Wear will sell more because of Apple Watch. But if Apple had made a Glass like device, that too would have ignited sales of Google Glass, don’t you think?

          4. “But if Apple had made a Glass like device, that too would have ignited sales of Google Glass, don’t you think?”

            Maybe, but Tim Cook/Apple didn’t think there was a consumer market for a Glass like device, regardless of the number of heads out there.

          5. I try not to base my arguments on ‘if’ statements. Usually takes a conversation off the rails.

            Apple didn’t make a smart-glasses device and based on how poorly Glass performed I doubt Apple would even bother.

            I know Apple has patents and concept drawings on similar technology but not every idea Apple has comes to fruition nor should it. Some ideas are best left on the drawing board.

          6. “But if Apple had made a Glass like device”

            I’m sure they created many prototypes, or did at least some amount of work down that path, and then decided it wasn’t worth doing. That doesn’t mean Apple will never do something with glasses, but clearly they decided against it at this time. Success has a lot to do with making decisions and saying no.

  6. Was it the glasses that were to be launched from the defunct boat-parked-in-the-harbor? It’s hard to remember all the rumors, let alone keep them straight. As a cat, I have always been interested in a different type of glass: that of the Martini! Cheers!! But I digress. If I put the $400 I’m not spending on an Apple watch (it’s always five o’clock somewhere) together with the $1500 I saved on Google glass, I bet I can find something that gives me real capabilities I can’t meet any other way. I never thought the computerized eyewear would be popular … not with people spending thousands of dollars on Lasik surgery so they don’t have to wear stylish convenient glasses at all.

          1. My apologies! It just goes to show it’s not that easy being the most intriguing cat in the world ^^. Even the pope decided to sell his Enzo, but he ended up a saint. Cheers!

  7. Interesting that no one ever pegged Google as the “new Microsoft.” Their peak was sharper and their decline is faster, but Google was never about “great” anything. That is the Microsoft-like trait that everyone forgets. Good enough to get their money, and never, ever do anything that isn’t specifically paid for as a line item, is good enough for most companies. FD: Apple stockholder since 1999.

    1. Google was and still is about great advertising via great search. Everything else is to get your eyeballs and your data to support that advertising.

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