Forecast came true

Google Glass wasn’t a failure
30 january 2015

Sales of smart glasses projected to hit 1 billion around 2020

The negative hype over Google Inc.’s decision to end the Google Glass Explorer program and shutter consumer sales of the device has been “largely exaggerated,” augmented reality’s biggest cheerleader says.

Ori Inbar, the chief executive of the non-profit AugmentedReality.org, said it couldn’t be “farther from the truth” to call Google Glass dead, or a failure. He says Google GOOGL, +1.51% has sold more hardware in the smart glass category than anyone else so far, which has helped to raise public awareness and create inroads for competition.

“Google elevated public awareness to smart glasses to an unprecedented level,” he said.

Google Glass sold six-figures-worth of Glass units before the program was temporarily shut down earlier this month, Inbar said. Google has not disclosed sales of the hardware, but Statista estimated that more than 831,000 units were sold in 2014.

Its temporary hiatus gives Glass competitors like archrival Epson, which was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month in full force showcasing its eyewear enterprise apps, the opportunity to grow their own installed base in its wake.

The popularization of smart glasses in the workplace has created inroads for other tech heavyweights to launch their own augmented reality glasses, attachments and goggles.

Sony Corp. SNE, -0.06% earlier this month at CES officially unveiled SmartEyeglass Attach, a tech wearable prototype that would clip into an existing pair of glasses. Microsoft Corp. MSFT, +0.12% unveiled HoloLens last week, a device that implants holographs into the physical places, spaces and things of a wearer’s actual reality.

All signs point to a market that is just starting to heat up. In a report released on Wednesday, AugmentedReality.org predicted that sales of smart glasses would reach one billion in shipments near 2020, and surpass shipments of mobile phones within 10 years.

Meanwhile, Google continues to sell to enterprise customers and its Google Certified Partners continue to develop enterprise apps for Fortune 1000 companies. Intel Corp. INTC, -0.26% , which replaced Texas InstrumentsTXN, +1.36% as the brains of Glass in December, will help Google market to companies.

Inbar said “reliable sources” of his indicate that the next version of Glass will be released later this year, which corroborates reports in the Wall Street Journal regarding the timeline of the next-generation Glass headset, whose Intel chips are expected to give it a longer battery than its predecessor.

The fact that Google has “graduated” the headset from its experimental Google X department to a more stable business segment run by Nest CEO and former Apple employee Tony Faddell signals the company is doubling down – not giving up – on the product, Inbar said. It helps that Google is armed with a treasure trove of data it collected from the two-year-long Explorer program.

Inbar does concede that Google could have handled the whole thing better, especially regarding the way it “cryptically” announced that Glass would stop selling in January via a single post on Google+.

Jennifer Booton

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Google Glass wasn’t a failure

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