Why Apple Didn’t Try to Copy Google Glass

| Particle Debris

Image credit: Google

Google Glass had a nifty sci-fi feel to it when the product first came out. Along the way, however, Google apparently failed to fully appreciate both why the product should exist in the chosen form and the social aspects of the device. Calls for Apple to quickly follow Google's lead now look silly.

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The article I'm highlighting this week is: "How Google Totally Botched The Release Of The Most Exciting Consumer Tech Product Since The iPad." While I have my doubts about Business Insider, in general, I have always respected the writing of Jay Yarow.

In this article, Mr. Yarow argues that "Google didn't really know why Glass existed." Glass is a product that is technologically feasible and appeals to our inner-geek, but wasn't ready for primetime. Instead of its value being wholly embraced by the public at large, it was seen by average people as a restricted, expensive nerd-toy used primarily to spy on people. Yarow writes:

Today, people with Glass on their faces are attacked unfairly because it's assumed that only elitist rich tech jerks wear Glass. If this was always for the masses, that might not be the assumption.

So when one of the most vocal and famous proponents of Glass, Robert Scoble, declared recently that the execution by Google hasn't been good, that probably reflected the beginning of the end for the product as we know it now. Observers have noted that it's not a big thing even with Google employees these days.

Mr. Yarow picks up on an important thread. Google didn't prepare Glass as an affordable product for the average technically minded person, like the iPad. Instead, it beta tested the device with a selected number of journalists. Now that the public has its doubts about the product, Google will have to rethink the whole idea.

The scuttlebut is that perhaps in a few years, when the technology is sufficiently small (a contact lens?) and inexpensive that anyone who wants one can wear it with anonymity, then perhaps we'll have a renaissance.

What interests me is that Google Glass has been the source of a pervasive outcry by observers that Apple is behind, Google is beating up on Apple with exciting, new technology, and Apple has lost its ability to innovate. While I admit that I was initially enthusiastic about Google Glass from a technical perspective, I never thought that Apple would or should try to, in a rush, mimic this product.  (I've been more concerned that Apple isn't paying enough attention to personal robots.)

I always keep in mind Tim Cook's comments about how Apple thinks deeply about solutions to basic human problems, and the company does it in a way that millions of people can embrace and love the solution.

Google Glass as a concept for the human being's heads up display isn't a bad idea. It was, however, not designed and rolled out the way Apple typically does things. Now we see the danger of throwing too much against the wall just to look like a cool company. I hope this affair leads to a new, more profound respect for how Apple innovates.

Next: The Tech News Debris for the Week of April 14 on page 2.

Comments

David 1

“it was seen by average people as a restricted, expensive nerd-toy”

Isn’t that the lesson that Google got right, kind of, with Gmail and has been unsuccessfully trying to copy since then?  Wave was limited when everyone wanted to use it and by the time it opened up the excitement had passed. It had other problems too but I see a pattern here.

geoduck

  The 49-inch and 55-inch models will sell for US$2099 and $2999 respectively. These are pretty good prices compared to a year ago when 4K TVs were written off as obscenely priced.

Last year we bought a 45 inch Toshiba HDTV for $399. Sorry but $2 grand for a TV in that size range IS obscenely priced.
The lack of 4k content, cable providers who won’t push 4kTV because they haven’t yet finished rolling out 1024, slow broadband speeds and the lack of 4k disks in the stores will slow the rollout of 4kTV. It’ll be at least 5 years before it’s commonly available or the dominant kind of TV sold. In the mean time only a fool would try to “future proof” themselves with a TV that costs $2,000 when you can get all the functionality you can use for then next half decade for a tenth of the price.

In this article, Mr. Yarow argues that “Google didn’t really know why Glass existed.” Glass is a product that is technologically feasible and appeals to our inner-geek, but wasn’t ready for primetime.

But that’s what Google does. They let the developers create things they think are fun or cool, roll them out, and when the developers get bored or distracted by the next shiny new idea, it stops getting updated and is eventually thrown away. Google desperately needs ADULTS that know how to take an idea to product stage and then keep with the marketing, and upgrades to keep it viable. Right now too many children make the decisions at Google.

CudaBoy

Pretty simple, Google can afford to have imagination unlike Apple. The original Pirates (apple) now are a victim of their own huge success seemingly almost AFRAID to make a mistake. Yet Apple rolls out flawed hardware, endless software maladies, and pretty much NO new products in 10 years. 
Glass was never released publicly - how can you fault whatever happens to a beta, but meantime Google is years ahead of the competition. Where is Apple’s 3D native printer support for example? Google is all over 3D printing.  Don’t even talk about the pipeline… TV’s, wearable tech etc. - Apple is a follower, not a leader. If you remember Jobs didn’t even think phones mattered in 2003 !! Apple is still riding high on improved (mostly just UI-never root technology) products that existed before Apple copied and improved upon them. Good luck with that modus operandi in the New Century.  I bought appl @ $15 so I care not…but I’ll tell you appl has peaked, and Google hasn’t. My 2¢

Nicolas diPierro

Thinking the public backlash to Google Glass has to do with the wearers’ wealth or status is wrong. We encounter ostentatious displays of individual wealth every day. I’d argue the backlash has to do with the fact that if you approach me wearing Google Glass, you’re forcing me to recognize and acknowledge your entire relationship to technology. And that’s obnoxious. Like someone holding out a new tattoo, Rolex or smartphone between their face and yours. You can’t begin a normal conversation until it’s dealt with.

So yes, when it’s small enough (or common enough) to ignore, it won’t be a problem.

The other issue is that many people would find you holding and phone up and recording their every move, provocative, unsettling or downright aggressive behavior.

CudaBoy

Good points Nic.  OAN, I think the most devastating thing that has happened to social graces in the last decade+  is the cell phone and specifically the seemingly impossible-to-stop RUDENESS of people stopping dead mid conversation to pick up a text message or call.  Kids and adults are on the social tether tied like little slave minions to the cel phone; makes me ill. Do you think cel phone users give a damn about social graces or how they look all tied up to that little teeny plastic box all day?  Nope. The hypocrites that have misgivings about Glass will be the first ones to buy it when it becomes affordable, I guarantee it.  Meanwhile, Glass is cutting edge and different looking but not inherently RUDE in any way shape or fashion. If I want to wear a Rhino Horn on my head - what business is it of yours? The problem seems to be with the people that don’t have them - and they can kiss ass.

sflocal

CudaBoy - Google is the kid with ADHD.  Can’t stand still long enough to finish one thing to its completion, polish it, and support it.  It’ll come out with some stuff, enjoy it for 15 minutes and then get bored with it.  It’s what it does.  With the exception of its core search / advertising business, it doesn’t do any of its other gazillion products well.

CudaBoy

I hear ya sf. But a lot of geniuses have ADHD. It’s a great paradigm if you can afford it - nothing ventured, nothing gained. Don’t forget Apple threw out a portable, a few tablets and some Macs that absolutely bombed to death.  With assets of 110 Billion and a net of 12.9 billion last year, I believe Google can afford to miss the mark as many times as necessary for the sake of being “light on the feet” and “innovating” both of which Apple has abandoned in favor of conservatism. Funny nobody has made a dent in a simple idea like Search since Google nailed it. Youtube, Waze Nest aren’t exactly chump-change either and they are all part of Google too. They are a beast of free thinkers. If you are a major league baseball player you are considered a success if you fail 7 out of 10 times (.300 batting average) but you keep swinging because the ball might actually hit the bat once in a while - and THAT is the payday.

RonMacGuy

LMAO CudaBoy.  You’re way out there, that’s for sure.  Not even worth arguing with.  3D printing is about as much of a joke as your posts are here.  LMFAO.

CudaBoy

Spoken like a true Clone.  I still dig you, Ron.

RonMacGuy

Keep on trolling, Bosco Jr.  Keep on trolling!!

grin

CudaBoy

Now now, you know you are talking to the 793rd person to join this site, right?
That’s when Apple meant something to us computer users and the future was cloudy. Bosco was a goof. Why doesn’t anybody remember Rodney O??
So thin skinned nowadays. Trolls “hate”, I don’t. I’ll go point for point any day newbie.

CudaBoy

” 3D printing is about as much of a joke as your posts are here.  LMFAO. ”
I know it’s off topic but I really don’t understand the myopia from a LOT of people about 3D printing.  Let’s take 2D printing; When nobody gave a whit about owning a printer at home say in the 80’s, they were $1k to $10k (good ones more, crappier less)  and most people didn’t even have computers anyway let alone how to print Now, every room has a printer and they cost nothing.
3D printers WILL be $500 or less, the Makerbot is only about a Grr now so smell the coffee. The databases are already being filled up with free 3D files just like the old days of freeware. 3D Scanners are getting cheap too. How does anybody see this won’t be a billion dollar industry real soon? I’ll print my own iPhone case thank-you very much. Or my Strat pickguard, or my tooth (lol)!

jfh17

Google: the masters of tech nobody wants.

Cudaboy: lying glasshole loser. “Apple hasn’t introduced any new products in 10 years.” Since 2004 then, huh? Everyone had a touch screen phone back then did they? And tablets were all the rage back then also huh.

jfh17

Plus Apple wasn’t interested in doing a phone, with any of the exsisting brands. That’s why they made the iPhone, they disn’t want to slap their software into some crap device like Cudaboy’s butt buddies Gooble and Microsuck.

jfh17

And Apple didn’t try to copy Glass because it sucks.

aardman

If ever there is a product that was so obviously conceived and developed by the socially inept, it’s Google Glass.  In fact you can divide the world between pasty-faced basement dwelling types and the rest of humanity merely by asking people how they feel about Google Glass.  Let’s be serious, the only reason we thought that wearing a video camera on your head throughout your waking hours won’t be a socially objectionable habit was that the discussion was conducted on tech sites.

JonGl

Cudaboy-

The problem with Google is there, and I’m surprised you missed it. What’s the last truly innovative thing that Google has succeeded at? Gmail? I think so. Everything Google has done since then has flopped. Youtube was bought, as was Nest. Google has taken to buying innovation, but they haven’t really succeeded at anything since Gmail. Google apps and even Google Drive are not all that popular, and even some of that they bought, oh, and they are built on Gmail. I look at Google today, and ask myself what they’ve really innovated in that has succeeded, and Gmail is the last thing I can think of, oh, and it was built to leverage their search and advertising… Sure, they throw a lot of stuff at the wall to see if it sticks, but right now, the wall is mostly empty, and the floor littered… That is not a good track record. Apple, on the other hand, has been incrementally innovating and improving. Siri, the fingerprint reader, retina displays, etc. They are keeping the good products coming—maybe not breakthroughs like the original iPhone or iPad, but they keep pushing the bar forward.

Google could be said to be doing the same—Google maps, while old, does keep improving, and they are copying Siri quite well, too, and trying to use it to leverage what they have done well in the past, but when looked at that way, they are no better nor worse than Apple.

Personally, I find it a zero-sum game to try to compare the two companies. Either will win or lose, depending on your perspective..

Brutno

The Glass intro was botched by the camera inclusion, IMHO. Google already had a reputation for creepiness, and they introduced a device that enhanced that reputation - true or not, it was the perception.  They also failed to control the narrative about the camera. There were way too many stories about the creepiness of the camera, and in turn, the creepiness of the wearer. Once the term “Glasshole” was out there it could not be undone. 

Glass may have been warmly welcomed if the camera was gone, as it still would have been a remarkable device.

RonMacGuy

Now now, you know you are talking to the 793rd person to join this site, right?
That’s when Apple meant something to us computer users and the future was cloudy. Bosco was a goof. Why doesn’t anybody remember Rodney O??
So thin skinned nowadays. Trolls “hate”, I don’t. I’ll go point for point any day newbie.

Actually CudaBoy, trolls don’t have to ‘hate’.  Most trolls post garbage with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.  Bosco is hardly a goof - he is very intelligent and posted a lot of thought-provoking comments.  His issue is that he let his hatred of Apple bias his comments, which caused him to make several predictions that were completely wrong, and a lot of people wouldn’t let him forget them (including me).

You, on the other hand, regardless of how early you ‘joined’ TMO, post idiotic comments (like ‘Google can afford to have imagination unlike Apple’ and ‘Yet Apple rolls out flawed hardware, endless software maladies, and pretty much NO new products in 10 years’) which are pure troll comments, and you know it.  And, your comment about going ‘point for point’ is COMPLETELY ludicrous, as for months and months you post your troll comments and when people try to engage you in thoughtful discussion, you don’t respond.  Where is the point for point?  Nope, you troll, and when people respond you call them thin skinned and other lame Apple-related insults without going point for point.  And again, you know it.

Regarding 3D printing, what I don’t understand is your fascination with it, to the point of insulting Apple for, unbelievably, not having native drivers for them yet?!?!?  You actually stated that in other past posts when you bring up this unnatural yearning you have for 3D printers.  Do I think they are cool?  Sure.  But your focus on them as a reason why Apple isn’t innovating is, sorry, just strange.

And yet again here are several people addressing you on your comments, hoping you will go ‘point for point’, and you are MIA.  Where are you?

 

RonMacGuy

OK CudaBoy, point for point.  Please respond, if you can.  GOOGLE GRAVEYARD!!

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/map_of_the_week/2013/03/google_reader_joins_graveyard_of_dead_google_products.html

John Dingler, artist

Hello Nicolas diPierro,
As you say, by virtue of its location—on the other person’s forehead – Google Glass and its camera always seemingly on and aimed at the other person in the conversation, it’s overly-aggressive, hence intrusive. It’s overly focused on that one thing, spying like a quasi-Peeping Tom. A Peeping Tom in the sense that a person knows that it’s spying but unable to see what the Peeping Tom is doing with the captured data.

In this sense, Google Glass fits nicely into the NSA paradigm of ubiquitous, just-in-case spying, especially with NSA’s & GCHQ ‘s Optic Nerve methodology. In other words, a Glasshole takes/steals data like a Middle Ages duke takes and keeps the wealth produced by his personal serfs.

By contrast, the innovative iPhone, or any phone for that matter, offers a method for cooperative, interpersonal communication where ideas are exchanged and it’s, therefore, humanistic, human centered and democratic. It’s a democratizing tool to a large extent.

John Dingler, artist

...and the phone has mutual value while Google Glass is selfish thus foolish, so people resent it. It seems to fall into that obnoxious category of devices people stick into their ears and talk as if to themselves but we all heard them loudly.

Lee Dronick

  Google Glass and its camera always seemingly on and aimed at the other person in the conversation, it’s overly-aggressive, hence intrusive. It’s overly focused on that one thing, spying like a quasi-Peeping Tom.

Well at least with the Google Glass you can see that the person has a camera. There are spy gadget cameras that are much less conspicuous, that look like shirt buttons and such.

John Dingler, artist

Hello Lee,
Yes, we have both, hidden and out in the open. Out in the open is Google’s innovation to formerly hidden Peeping Tomism. It’s now mostly accepted, with only some individuals outraged and willing to smash the glasses until even they will be taken over by the Pod mentality as portrayed in the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” move.

wab95

ohn:

If there is a theme to your Debris this week, in my opinion, it is nothing if not a study of contrast, the point-counterpoint between Apple and their competition, specifically about how Apple does, and does not, roll out new products; not simply their release on the market as consumer products, but the thought they invest into a specific problem and its solution as a refined consumer product, which in turn is characterised as an optimised (relative to extant technology) and consistent user experience.

Your analysis and assessment of the Google Glass rollout, and how this was not optimally followed through, or perhaps even thought through, by Google is revealing and contrasts sharply with how Apple, for example, thought through the consumer experience with downloadable music, and how in the space of two years, Apple not only released a best in class music player, but eventually a music store and software that permitted one to access and then organise the music in multiple ways and with ease; not simply creating a heretofore unseen self-contained consumer music solution, but laying the groundwork for a still-evolving digital ecosystem. John Kirk’s deconstruction of MS’s envy-based response to the iPod (more on Kirk in a moment), which as he points out, had nothing to do with MS’s business model, their core business, their dominance (read virtual monopoly) of the desktop PC market or their profitability, and why that response failed (the key ingredients have just been spelt out) is a case study how an enterprise not only diffuses its strengths and resources but ultimately becomes its own worst enemy before defeating itself.

Jason Snell then does a clinic on how Apple thinks through a solution in his piece on the iWatch. To me, the most intriguing aspect of his analysis and discussion is not even printed, but implicit; namely, how careful students of Apple’s business model can construct, from a set of organising principles, what does and does not ring true, and make not simply reasonable projections on what might come and why, but equally important, how and why certain pundit points of pedanticy are inane and utterly without foundation. These organising principles are there for those with eyes to see and minds to comprehend. As for the Apple naysayers and the gainsayers; their own irrational denial has blinded their vision and clouded their reasoning to these same principles, which might otherwise grant them greater insight into Apple’s MO and, perhaps, next big thing. It would certainly lend them a greater understanding of the Apple community, which really does exist, and why that community, despite its diversity of temperament, profession and duration of membership, is as loyal as it is - a loyalty that is neither unfounded, nor, for the vast majority, characterised by unfettered and irrational devotion (i.e. fanaticism). A substantial fraction of this community is comprised of seasoned, busy professionals who have no time for the frivolity and penis comparisons associated with jejune fanboyism.

Finally, John Kirk has, very adroitly, and with succinct precision, summarised many of the points that the TMO community, whether staff and readership, have, over the past several years, articulated, present company included, regarding how MS have lost their way, and what they need to do to reboot their enterprise and re-engage in the post-PC era. This is a must-read for anyone interested, but particularly for those who have participated, in this discussion. In particular, a key take home message is one that I’ve cited specifically in relation to man-to-man combat, namely fighting or competing on someone else’s terms, which plays to their strengths and not yours, especially if you have never trained in that style or technique. This is nowhere more brilliantly portrayed than with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in Return of the Dragon, in which Lee, initially following the tried and true path of formulaic Kung Fu, stares into the eyes of inevitable defeat at the hands of his opponent, and only when dropping the predictable and the traditional, and employing the unconventional and the innovative free form of Jheet-kun-do, does he overcome the odds and attain unqualified victory. This is a metaphor for business and entrepreneurship or simply meeting life’s challenges, writ large; and a must-see for anyone looking for inspirational insight for addressing adversity against the odds.

An excellent selection for meditation and reflection.

jbelkin

Google Glasses are LITERALLY the Segway of the early 21st century. That is Google - pointless technology outside of search. Google is ONLY successful when it comes to two criterias - it’s FREE for the user and it’s a copycat product. Search & Gmail are fine products - free and a refined product from other who got there first. Better, yes but true pioneering innovation? No. They thought that Apple was Yahoo or MS and could be defeated with free Android. Android is like Gmail - a fine free copycat thing - but when Google charges people for products - does not do very well - like their online doc apps. Basically, Google has NEVER created a product that consumers will pay for (outside a few thousand engineers). In fact, Nexus is a huge fail, Moto cost them $10 billion in 3 years to find out the Google name is worth MINUS $10 BILLION dollars. GoogleTV was an abject failure - the two chromecast devices - $29 & 240 for a laptop, middling sales with nearly zero profit margins. How many businesses has Google shut down? Google is a one trick pony - an ad sales company, a GREAT ad sales company but not anything more. They are simply incapable. Google Glasses are a fine segway like product - useful in warehouses or transporting small packages upa hill but outsode a few thousand in sales, google glasses has already hit its peak.

RonMacGuy

Well, what a freaking surprise. “Point for point” cudaboy has several points in his court to counter and, like normal, he is no where to be seen until his next troll. Pathetic. Simply pathetic. But not surprising.

nobody9

Yarow writes: “Today, people with Glass on their faces are attacked unfairly because it’s assumed that only elitist rich tech jerks wear Glass. If this was always for the masses, that might not be the assumption.”

LOL.  If you subtract “unfairly” and substitute iPhone for Glass, it makes a lot more sense to me.

Constable Odo

Google Glass is definitely a latter-day Segway and a bad one at that.  Google Glass will see limited use at best and I think it’s going to be banned in many places as some invasion of privacy device.  I’m honestly sad that the Segway wasn’t able to become a legitimate transportation device.  In a suburban setting I would think a Segway would be very useful if they had specialized lanes for them.  And they should definitely be registered and insured with a special Segway license requirement for use.

Dorkus Maximus

I was concentrating so much on my Google Glass that I had a wreck on my Segway.

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