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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Google Isn’t Giving Up on Glass, Eric Schmidt Says

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt takes part in a discussion on “The Disrupters: Technology and the Case for Optimism” at the American Enterprise Institute March 18, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Getty Images
Google GOOGL +0.07% is sticking with its controversial Glass Internet-connected eyewear because the technology is too important to scrap, according to Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Google stopped selling the first version of Glass and shut its Explorer program in January, moving the project out of its Google X research lab into a standalone unit. Ivy Ross remained head of the Glass team but Tony Fadell, head of Google’s Nest connected home division, now oversees strategy for the project.
The changes sparked speculation that Google will abandon Glass. However, Schmidt told The Wall Street Journal that it has been put under Fadell’s watch “to make it ready for users.”
“It is a big and very fundamental platform for Google,” Schmidt said. “We ended the Explorer program and the press conflated this into us canceling the whole project, which isn’t true. Google is about taking risks and there’s nothing about adjusting Glass that suggests we’re ending it.”
He said Glass, like Google’s self-driving car, is a long-term project. “That’s like saying the self-driving car is a disappointment because it’s not driving me around now,” he said. “These things take time.”
A spokeswoman for Fadell declined to comment.
Unlike the first version of Glass, work on the new version will happen behind the scenes.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Glass has been criticized for invading people’s privacy because wearers can record video and take photos unobtrusively. Early users became the butt of jokes, gaining the nickname “glassholes.”
But Google remains interested in wearable computing devices, a potentially large market. Research firm IDC forecast last year that annual shipments will grow 78% a year to 112 million by 2018. That compares to an IDC estimate of almost 1.9 billion smartphones shipped in 2018.
The most complex wearables, such as Glass, which have their own Internet connection and operate independently from smartphones, won’t catch on quickly because the value proposition for users isn’t clear yet, IDC said.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that Google is working on another version of Glass that will be cheaper and have longer battery life, improved sound quality and a better display. Google is also trying to tackle the social stigma of Glass by pairing the device with more familiar types of eyewear.
Unlike the first version of Glass, work on the new version will happen behind the scenes, borrowing a page from the product developing strategy playbook of Apple, where Fadell created the iPod.

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