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Will Google Glass be successful? Lessons from Segway and iPhone

Google Glass (from Wikipedia)

A story aired on NPR this morning about the backlash Google Glass is already facing, even before it is generally available:

Right now, Google Glass might be the world’s worst spy camera; if you go out in public with a pair on, you are guaranteed to attract attention. Still, the idea of techies mounting a tiny screen and a little camera to their faces makes millions of people uncomfortable.

According to Sarah Rotman Epps, a tech analyst at Forrester Research, that is why Google is rolling out Glass to the world slowly in stages.

“Google has been incredibly transparent … with their Glass rollout,” Epps says. “They realize that Google Glass will require shifting social norms to be accepted.”

The excitement about Google Glass reminds me of the buzz back in Fall, 2001 about Segway:

[Inventor Kamen] believes the Segway “will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.” He imagines them everywhere: in parks and at Disneyland, on battlefields and factory floors, but especially on downtown sidewalks from Seattle to Shanghai. “Cars are great for going long distances,” Kamen says, “but it makes no sense at all for people in cities to use a 4,000-lb. piece of metal to haul their 150-lb. asses around town.” In the future he envisions, cars will be banished from urban centers to make room for millions of “empowered pedestrians”–empowered, naturally, by Kamen’s brainchild.

Segway does not release sales figures, but best estimates are that no more than 100,000 units have shipped in a decade of sales.

Six years after the release of the Segway, another eagerly anticipated product hit the marketplace (from Jan., 2007):

After more than two years in the making, Apple CEO Steve Jobs Tuesday announced the company’s intention to enter the mobile handset market, unveiling the new Apple iPhone. The iPhone brings together several features of the iPod, digital camera, smart phones and even portable computing to one device, with a widescreen display and an innovative input method.

“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” Jobs said.

Through six generations of releases Apple has now sold 300-350 million iPhones.

Image credit: Dylan Love in Business Insider

Google Glass: Segway or iPhone?

What is a better model for predicting the trajectory of Google Glass?

Will Google Glass suffer the same disappointing fate as Segway? Will it wilt under the weight of high expectations and resistance to change? Or, is it a revolutionary product that defines a new mode of communication and computing?

In its favor, Google Glass is less expensive, is a natural evolution of existing products and has a supportive ecosystem of developers. Yet, as Ms. Epps said, “Google Glass will require shifting social norms to be accepted.” Demonstrating the risks, cafes, casinos, and other locations with privacy concerns have already moved to ban the use of Google Glass.

Google is pioneering an entirely new model of computing usage. Early users reviews are positive, but without a consumer price tag it is difficult to predict consumer viability. There’s a big difference in the level of consumer demand for a $200 product than a $500 one. Also, Google still has time to address privacy concerns. (For example, it could add a visible indicator showing when a device is recording.)

Also, if the long rumored segment of smart-watches emerges, Google Glass will face competition. There is no doubt a huge market for even more portable Internet-enabled smart devices, but it is too early to tell what form factor will gain social acceptance.

What do you think? Will Google Glass be the next iPhone or the next Segway?


7 Responses to Will Google Glass be successful? Lessons from Segway and iPhone

  • I think it will be the next Segway. My first thought was that most people will find it superfluous. I mean, what’s the point when there are smart phones that can do everything that the glasses will be able to do. On the other hand, it seems we live in the age of the superfluous where people find that they absolutely need to have things that we have lived perfectly fine for thousands of years without, so I discard my first argument against the glasses.

    However, there is another issue. I think that the government will find their use just too dangerous in many situations. I think they will become illegal in many states almost as soon as they come on the market.Texting while driving is already illegal in many states. I do not know if it is a federal law or not yet. People are already too distracted particularly while driving, and something like this will just make the situation worse! If the government has any intelligence whatsoever, (their track record is not too good in that department!), they will only allow people who are physically disabled, or can demonstrate some real need for this technology to purchase them. However on the other hand, even that would not stop most people from purchasing it because they will just get a letter from their doctor saying that they need one even if they don’t need one. I know this because most of the parking spaces for the disabled require a a placard from one’s doctor which most people easily get even if they’re not disabled. (Sorry for the digression.)

    I guess the bottom line is that whether they go the way of the Segway, or the iPhone depends upon how useful, and entertaining they are to use. I guarantee you that if people find a useful or entertaining use for them, some crazy nut will argue that their use is covered under the Second Amendment right to bare arms. If someone figures out a way to use them for self-defense (or claims they can be used that way), there will be people lined up around the block waiting to buy a pair of them!

  • I think they will go the way of the Segway. For starters, they are a “who cares?” product. Second, so many people wear glasses that these would be a hassle to use. Most importantly of all, though, is the “To Catch A Predator” vibe they give off. People hate feeling like their privacy is being invaded. Imagine what you would feel like walking down the street and seeing thousands of people walking by, their devices all set to record, making thousands of video copies of everything you do. Imagine them taking video of you home, editing it in whatever fashion they want, and posting it online.

    No, the creepy factor with these is way, way too high.

    I make a prediction that once these are more commonly available that if Google adds a visible indicator that the device is recording, such as a visible red LED on it, that someone is going to get the stuffing beaten out of them by people who do not want to be recorded.

  • Being a techie myself, I can’t wait to get my hands on one. I think it would be so cool. Privacy concerns are so much bigger than this though. We already have people spying into our communications, the ones we *think* are private. now that’s scary. I can understand these being banned at gym’s bathroom for example, but restaurants? Cafes? As for driving, I think they could actually enhance our driving and help us out. We wouldn’t have to look away to get our GPS directions, it’s a perfect HUD – always with you. Those of you that are gamers would probably agree.

    I think it will be in between the segway and iphone. A success but not as big as the iphone, maybe more profound, but will take a while for it to match the numbers the iphone has produced.

  • I think it will be the next iphone, one please he…. 😀

  • I personally would be glad to have everything but don’t think that it’s all so needed. It’s enough to have iPhone already. But answering your question: I guess Google glass won’t be next IPhone. Cause it’s not so comfy to use. But maybe I’m mistaken and later it’ll be more comfy.

  • Personally, I wouldn’t give a hoot one way or another. Whether they will fail or make a gazillion dollars, I doubt that either represents a highlight (or a low point) of human ingenuity. If anything, they do share a common tread: none is original. They’re both just variations of two things that have been present since, well, since the advent of the wheel: the desire to communicate, and, you guessed it, the wheel itself. At that, they’re not even the best thing that has ever happen to either.
    That said, one of the reasons that Segway may have failed is that it was developed ignoring one of the most basic, and oldest characteristic of urban society: the street grid. For as long as humans have gathered around to live in community, roads, or ways to get from point A to B, have been around in some form or another. Very likely, the last time that such a setup has been ‘improved,’ so to speak, was to accommodate vehicles and pedestrians, sharing the same space. Not much has changed ever since, including curbs and street lights.
    As for the iPhone, it’s still a transition, and it’s still struggling to do what the landline phone had done previously, and well, for a century. It may start to evolve once, if ever, it begins to be incorporated into the human body, a thought that still gives at least 30% of the world population shudders.
    The Google glass has already run into a formidable opponent, one that, again at least those same 30%, may be highly invested in: personal space and privacy. In that way, many are already hoping it fails, no matter how many billions Google injects into it. Then again, if succeeds, which may as well do, as drones and cellphone antennas in subway tunnels did, it’s very unlikely that it become as endearing to some people as the cellphone has become.
    Thanks for the post, though, Steven
    Wesley Coll

  • I wanted to try it once