Who Knows What Google Should Do With Glass?
Google will be releasing Glass for sale to the public later this year. As noted in Why I Hope Google Glass Succeeds I think it will be a major advance in human computer interaction even though I don’t think it will be a commercial success. Alas, controversy about Glass-based “threats” to privacy are already swirling, even to the point where a publicity-seeking bar is forbidding the use of Glass on its premises.
Stepping back to reality, let’s consider what Glass represents for Google.
Glass is another attempt for this advertising revenue rich company to introduce a new game changing technology to the public.
It’s difficult, based on past experience, to predict whether Glass will succeed where other technically-innovative Google products have flopped. Last year there was the Google Nexus Q. There is Google TV, which is still creeping along in terms of consumer and industry acceptance; remember Eric Schmidt’s prediction that by Summer 2012 most TVs would come with Google TV installed?
Then there’s Android which has been massively successful numerically but which contributes little direct revenue to Google. Android’s market expansion and domination have been accompanied by a lack of coordination, decentralized management, and a proliferation of software versions that are updated — if updated at all — via an independently operating patchwork of software management policies that raise security concerns.
In these cases we have examples of incredible engineering, innovation, exceptional developer community involvement, coupled with flawed marketplace execution. Google, apparently, is not immune to the occasional missteps that all companies, Apple and Microsoft included, occasionally experience .
Based on what I’ve seen so far of Glass and how information is being dribbled out to the public, I’m not so sure that Google has Glass under control. The highly selective and controlled release of information to the public about Glass (skydiving, anyone?), Sergey Brin’s recent and poorly executed promotion of Glass at TEDActive, and hysteria about the “privacy threats,” don’t bode well for a smooth introduction of this technology to the marketplace.
Of the issues mentioned above, it seems to me that “privacy” hysteria is potentially the most serious. Even if you think such concerns are silly, Google should have seen this one coming and should have been ready with counter-arguments to deploy via its legions of supporters, spokespersons, and promoters.
Personally, I don’t buy the, “It’s okay because a little red light blinks when you’re taking a video” excuse. Red lights can be hacked. I am concerned that, while Google touts the “game changing” nature of this technology, some of its supporters are denigrating people concerned about privacy. It’s long been a tenet of enterprise social media policy that you can’t hide from people bad-mouthing your products online. You have to be ready to address such threats head on. Just ridiculing them isn’t really an option.
I don’t think that Google has gotten a coherent message out yet about Glass. But then, Google has never been one to excel in “human touch” customer relations. That’s what it might be coming down to. Google generates tons of revenue via targeted advertising tied to algorithm-based searching. Google excels at creativity and whipping up developer support for innovative operating systems and software applications. But when it comes to introducing and supporting these products to the public, Google is vulnerable to the unpredictable winds of the public and to potentially fearful legislators. It could get ugly.
Is the situation salvageable through the opening of Google stores that provide training and one-on-one support two products such as Glass? I have my doubts, but I hope I’m wrong. I love and constantly use Google products. Gmail and it’s contact management system I’m dependent on for managing and tracking my own consulting and marketing efforts. Google+ is my go-to social network that far outstrips my usage of Twitter and LinkedIn. Google Drive has almost completely replaced my use of Microsoft Office. I love the Google Apps that run on my iPhone. And, of course, there’s Google Search.
But here’s the rub: these are all “free” services. Their availability depends on Google receiving a steady stream of revenue from advertising sales. What happens if this revenue is somehow threatened? What if Glass is an expensive and embarrassing failure involved in some awful disastrous accident? Will Google’s Board demand a shake up in its upper management — or its business model that covers giving away services? I hope nothing like this happens because we all benefit from Google’s success.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald