Marketing Fail or a Decent First Experiment?
So we learnt that Google has ceased sales of its Glass eyewear this week. Cue lots of ‘I said it was a rubbish idea’ stone-throws into the diverse pond of life that is the comments sections of the internet.
I have compiled a list of people for whom I think the Glass is currently suitable/practical for: • Robocop • The Terminator (T-1) • Bono (The Ultimate ‘Glasshole’?) • Tech savvy Peeping Toms • The Bloke from BetFair • That’s It.
It feels like a defeat for Google, and certainly does not impact positively on their reputation. But what can we glean from this apparent failure? And is it really a failure at all?
Firstly, the Google Glass has a problem visually. It looks a little like it has been cobbled together; an A level student’s D&T project, or slightly reminiscent of Jack Duckworth’s repaired glasses that were held together with a plaster. It’s just nowhere near sleek and subtle enough yet.
It’s not cool enough as a fashion statement. No one of any real substance has started using it religiously, which would have ignited its promotion. I was trying to find examples of people using it publicly/on TV, and found this. A chap from Betfair decided he would use it every time he appeared on TV. It does not really help Google that some middle-aged portly bookie is using their new piece of tech innovation just to run through the non-runners in the 3.45 at Plumpton.
Arguably the Glass’s biggest problem is that socially, for the wearer, it is alienating. A lot of people would be genuinely concerned that you are intending to record them. People who have tested it for a week report numerous requests from members of the public to take them off.
It also lacks a quality app. Poor grade bits like this Narcissistic sex app that only Dorian Gray and Robbie Williams would download didn’t help its general public perception.
The battery life seems to be a major issue also. Questionable subterranean characters are reporting they can only get about 15 mins of invasive voyeuristic recordings down on the Tube before they are out of power/collared by the Transport Police.
At the moment, your average consumer just doesn’t really need it.
I have compiled a list of people for whom I think the Glass is currently suitable/practical for:
• The Terminator (T-1)
• Bono (The Ultimate ‘Glasshole’?)
• Tech savvy Peeping Toms
• The Bloke from BetFair
• That’s It.
But in all seriousness, is there a huge marketing fail here? Actually, I don’t think there really is.
The market is not ready for it, and the product is not ready. But Google, as part of this ‘Explorer’ programme, has realised that. It was only ever a Beta test (admittedly, at $1500 a pop, a bloody expensive beta test), a small sample of the intended audience.
Google has not really, as far as I am aware, ploughed a load of money into the advertising and marketing of this product. They’ve tested the water, found it turbulent, and so the commercial release will not follow. That’s fair enough, albeit disappointing. But the fact it has been shelved does have an adverse affect on Google’s image, no doubt. The internet is the preserve of the naysayers.
I think it will have its time. The ‘Glassholes’ are just the equivalent of the 80’s Yuppies with the early brick mobile phones who would be on the receiving end of mocking taunts of, "buy buy, sell sell!"
It’s more immediate future probably lies in more niche, professional areas, such as surgeons, fire crews, and the armed forces. Or perhaps it can help people with disabilities. Image recognition for the visually impaired or visual cues for the hard of hearing. The potential of hands-free use for physical disabilities must be huge.
The Glass’s hiatus seems indicative of a more general trend that we are not quite ready for wearables, or at least obvious wearables. A key barrier for them to overcome is how they look. The Apple watch does look cooler than the Glass, but again, has still received criticism for it’s shoddy aesthetics. HP enlisted the help of designer Michael Bastian with the design of these smart watches, as they were acutely aware of the problem.
I don’t think we have seen the last of the Google Glass. It can be honed, redefined and come back and prove the doubters wrong. But timing is everything, so maybe the Glass got its cue wrong, missed its chance and will ultimately be consigned to the same place where Betamax, the Mini Disc and the Amiga CD32 console (I bought one of these) now reside. Time will tell.