Some Indications That Google Glass Will Not Be a Mass-Market Success
Google Glass is probably the most polarizing tech gadget being discussed. Most people are either convinced that it is the greatest human innovation since Apollo 11 Moon landing or that it is yet another doomed Google project. #Snark: It's not like we have any shortage of the latter.
The excitement on the "next big thing" side is obvious and very understandable. After all, we do live in the age of tools miniaturization, and there's nothing surprising about the "wearable smartphone" idea capturing our imaginations.
The big question, however, is: Is Google Glass it?
There are some strong indications that it is not. You have most certainly heard the obvious ones: "Google does not know how to do hardware" and "Glass is just too weird".
I think the not-a-hardware-company argument may have some ground, but: Google CAN hire, and indeed: has hired, people who do have track record of creating successful hardware. There is however a significant leap from that to creating a breakthrough mass-market product. Additional factors, such as: company culture, massive global production logistics that needs to be built, etc. must be considered. Jury is still out on whether Google can pull the production and distribution of a mass-market hardware on its own.
The latter argument (Glass is too weird for a mass-market gadget) I do agree with, but to be fair: it's also a matter of taste. Additionally: breakthrough products can change consumer aesthetics. There're many examples of products that had looked weird at first and have later become admired as iconic designs.
There is however one indicator of Google's improbable success that I have not seen discussed, so far: timing.
Google Glass was announced more than a year ago. It will be at least another year untill general public can buy it. That is at least two years from public announcement to launch!
While breakthrough technologies do often take years to develop, I have hard time remembering a single breakthrough mass-market gadget that was announced two years prior to its public sales and that has taken a market over.
There is a reason why Apple is so famously secretive. It could be that Jobs learned a good lesson from his NeXT days: when he had a product years ahead of its time, but one that never became a successful mass-market product.
Google could have done itself a favor to take a cue from its Silicon Valley neighbour, limiting the fanfare so early before the public launch, but it's too late now, anyway.
Time will show if fanfare-to-market-time is a good indication of a gadget's projected [lack of] success. My gut tells me that it may be.
I believe that Google Glass will resonate strongly with hobbyists, but I am not going to hold my breath for anything like the iPhone or iPad launches.