Although Google is shuttering consumer sales of its wearable computer Glass on January 19, the device is far from dead, one source in Google’s Glass for Work program tells Business Insider.
Google is instead shifting its attention to focus on the one area where Glass has done reasonably well: businesses. The Glass for Work program has about a dozen partners involved, all of whom are still writing apps for the device, our source says.
A business that wants ” a 100 [pairs of Glass] tomorrow, they can get it. They want 1,000 tomorrow, they can get it,” this source told us, and Google confirmed.
“We’ll continue to invest in our Glass at Work offering for enterprise developers and companies,” a spokesperson told us.
We’re not going to pretend that Glass for Work is a major focus or priority at Google. Other sources at the company have indicated to us that it isn’t, at least not yet.
But within the Glass for Work community, the death of the so-called Explorers program (in which Google sold the device to individuals for $US1,500 a pop) is being met with a shrug.
“The fact that the Explorers program is coming to an end is no secret. The media has been hinting that they have had a whiff of it for three or four months. There’s been changes to the home page, there’s been a reduction of availability of where you could buy Glass. They shut down the consumer facing Glass stores fronts months ago. It was called the Explorer program for a reason. They were exploring how people could use it,” our source said.
Within the Google At Work program, everyone is excited about this change, this source insists.
“Based on the communications we’ve been having with Google over the last six months, frankly I’m surprised the Explorer program lasted so long. It educated Google on how they needed to think about this new class of hardware,” the source said, adding:
“I think Google is taking a playbook from Apple. Get a little sneaky, get a little secretive, don’t show their competitors what’s next. Unveil what’s new and exciting when its ready.”
But while Google had been in regular contact with At Work partners and enterprise customers, the company didn’t warn these folks of the exact date Glass would be pulled from consumer sales.
That sort of thing doesn’t sit well with enterprises. “They like to know what’s coming. They like consistency and a roadmap,” said our source.
We talked to Brian Ballard, CEO and co-founder of APX Labs, a Google Certified Glass at Work Partner, about this. Ballard says of the product roadmap, “Google is now giving us exactly that.”
And he says that Google is ramping up resources for Glass, not winding down. “They have more people supporting it than ever.”
He added, “The entire Glass ecosystem knew from Day 1 that there would be an end to the Explorer program. We have better support from Google than we ever had before.”
Ballard says that Glass sales to enterprises is booming. “We have had multi-hundred per cent growth every quarter. The types of customers signing up are huge brands like aircraft manufacturers, car manufacturers, utilities, telcos.”
For instance, in November APX announced a deal with Boeing to launch a pilot program with Glass.
Time will tell what Google really intends to do with Glass, and if the product will ultimately survive.
But the official word from Google is that Glass is “graduating” out of the Google X research labs into a regular product business unit within Google.
This unit will be led by Ivy Ross, reporting into Tony Fadell. Glass won’t be part of Nest though, Google says.
Ross, a consumer products designer and marketer who had worked at Calvin Klein, Swatch, Coach, Mattel, Bausch & Lomb, and The Gap, came to Google in May and had already been leading Glass under Google X.
The fact that Ross and Fadell are leading the charge indicates that Google hasn’t fully given up on a consumer version. If it were to become a wholly enterprise product, the team likely would have reported to the Google At Work team that runs products like Google Apps and Google’s cloud.
Glass may not be the big consumer hit everybody expected, but for now reports of the device’s death seem to be exaggerated.
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