A year ago Google Glass was the hottest item in tech.
It was the biggest thing in consumer technology since the iPad. (Mostly because nothing had come out since the iPad.)
Venture capitalists were announcing plans to invest in Glass-specific startups. Google held a contest to raffle off the rights to own Glass, and people were submitting applications. Journalists were in love with Glass, and thought it was going to be the future of computing.
This year, the sentiment has swung 180 degrees and is now overwhelmingly negative.
When Google was selling Glass to the public for the first time, Bianca Bosker at Huffington Post wrote a thorough takedown of Glass:
We always knew Glass, with its vaguely orthodontic design, would be a tough sell. Yet in the thirteen months since the device first appeared on American brows, Google has actually lost ground: Getting people to embrace the Internet-connected head camera has become more difficult, not less. And this is after an extended PR blitz …
In the beginning, Glass’ biggest sin was looking weird. Now, Glass is both physically unattractive and morally suspect.
Bosker isn’t the only person underwhelmed by Glass. Robert Scoble, Google’s first major Glass evangelist, confessed that Google Glass is doomed for this year. (He’s optimistic that Google fixes problems with Glass by 2016, which is an eternity in technology.)
Jeff Jarvis, one of the biggest Google defenders in the world, “hates” Glass. He calls it an “expensive nightmare.”
What happened in a year that made so many people sour on the product?
All of this can be traced back to one crucial mistake with the launch of Glass: It
Google allowed only a select group of “Explorers” to get Glass for $US1,500 last year. Initially, it was a great marketing ploy. Everyone wanted it; it got lots of buzz. But Glass needed to be widely deployed all at once for the product to succeed.
It needed to be widely deployed for two reasons:
1. Google Glass was a new, weird-looking technology. If lots of people bought it all at once, it would be less weird. Today, people with Glass on their faces are attacked unfairly because it’s assumed that only elitist rich tech jerks wear Glass. If this was always for the masses, that might not be the assumption.
2. Google didn’t really know why Glass existed. Its best guess was that it made it easier to get email notifications and it took photos quickly. There’s nothing wrong with not really knowing why your product is great. Even Apple didn’t have a 100% understanding of why the iPad was cool when it launched the iPad. Google was hoping that by sending out Glass to a select group of users it would figure out Glass’s best usage. But if it had sent it out to more people, it would have more users figuring the product out.
I would guess the reason Google didn’t sell Glass to the public right away is that it wasn’t ready for a mass rollout. But if that was the case, then why not just wait? Why pre-announce a half-baked product?
At first, Google seemed clever for doing a slow rollout and generating buzz. Instead, it backfired, and today Glass has lost its appeal.