Looks like Google will be replacing its Glass processor and shifting its focus to the workplace market.
Though trendy, and beloved by a small cadre of dedicated fans, Google Glass has taken a lot of heat for failings, including its high price and lack of application support. But a second generation of Google Glass is now under development which hopes to vault over its critics and find a home in the workplace.
The current version of Glass, known as the Explorer Edition, has targeted consumers who demand bleeding-edge technology and can afford its $1,500 price tag. But the first-gen Google Glass has not found widespread consumer acceptance, causing Google to shut down its dedicated Glass brick-and-mortar retail stores worldwide.
But that doesn't mean the search giant has given up on Glass. Sources have told the International Business Times that Google has a substantial second act planned. Google now plans to replace the Texas Instruments processor used in the current version of Glass with an Intel processor, and refocus its marketing efforts to promote Glass use in the workplace.
Intel on board
Sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal say that Intel will help Google market the product to businesses, especially to hospitals and manufacturing companies (it's worth noting that the partners should have a head start in healthcare, as third-party developers have already developed apps offering virtual dictation, telemedicine consults, recorded procedures, augmented reality software that puts information into the clinician's field of vision and direct communication with EMS staffers).
While Google may indeed be switching its Glass marketing focus to workplace applications, it hasn't dedicated a lot of staff to the new initiative yet, another source told the WSJ. The source said that of the relatively scant 300 Google employees working on Glass, less than 5% are focused on its Glass at Work program. Apparently, despite its store closures, Google still sees Glass as having a meaningful consumer market.
Analysts say that to make Google Glass a success in the consumer market, Google will have to address several problems, including short battery life and its high retail price (most consumer wearables, like other consumer electronics devices, clock in at around the $200 to $300 price point). Intel is working to help make sure that the next Glass will have improved battery life, but Google hasn't addressed the question of whether it's willing to drop its sticker price substantially to achieve mass-market uptake. On the other hand, Intel and Google are working on other consumer-friendly options such as mobile gaming, which could increase consumer interest and tolerance for premium pricing.
Still, it remains to be seen whether Google can turn its bulletproof online brand into one that attracts demanding mainstream consumers to Glass. Even with Intel's formidable help, Google seems far away from, say, occupying a space on the retail shelves of Best Buy, snuggled between the PlayStation and the mega-big-screen TVs.
After all, if the current model is any indication, Glass is far from being a simple consumer product. I've tried version 1 of Glass, and while it's fascinating to use -- the word "futuristic" definitely comes to mind -- the display isn't attractive and it doesn't have a consumer-friendly interface. Clearly, Google has a long way to go before it can compete with hits like Internet-connected, motion sensitive console gaming technology.
On the other hand, its workplace initiative may be successful. From Dubai police officers using Glass headsets with facial recognition software to catch criminals, to surgeons using Glass during surgery, business is slowly but surely finding worthwhile uses for the still-embryonic product. Maybe Google should just go with the flow and let the consumer market go for a while.
About the author: Anne Zieger is a veteran journalist who’s been covering the U.S. healthcare scene for over 25 years. She provides “News with a Twist,” combining solid reporting with expert insights and analysis. Her opinions are her own. You can follow Anne on Twitter @ziegerhealth.