Google Seeing Beyond Glass

On Friday the WSJ reported that Google is actively working on both a smartwatch and a game console. Although a Samsung-developed Android watch has been in the pipeline for a while now, it’s a logical product initiative for Google, and one that I suspect they wish they’d prioritized over Glass.

The era of the smartwatch is upon us, while the era of marveling over the possibility of smart HUDs is perhaps beginning. Glass was always a bright and shiny thing that staked Google well ahead of the competition in terms of ambition and innovative creativity, but it is little more than a decorative jewel in its crown. The fact that a year will pass between its highly overpriced beta to actual market speaks to the fact that the technology is not ready. In the meantime, smartwatches exist and have proven popular with the common folk.

Watches are easy: they are unobtrusive yet convenient, appropriately sized screens can fit a reasonably large amount of information (see the iPod Nano), the device can be produced in a variety of fashions to suit individuals’ tastes, and today’s style prefers large watches anyway (at least for men). Eye glasses, on the other hand, are fraught with challenges — people spend thousands of dollars to shed their headgear through LASIK, they cannot be disguised as regular glasses because of the large form factor, and the information volume is low. Moreover, Glass has fundamentally been a fashion statement — not of the Milan-type, but of the Silicon Valley-type. It’s about conspicuous adoption that is suitable for the geeks and the image-conscious (of a certain crowd), but not for mass adoption.

Time will tell, but I expect it to be the Segway of this decade — the type of device that you wouldn’t regularly use even if given one for free because it fundamentally conflicts with the way we live our lives, even if technologically fascinating.

Glass aside, I am confident Google will field an excellent watch, and I look forward to its introduction eagerly.

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