Google on Thursday announced that it will shut down its Glass Explorer Program in order to refocus — but that new versions of Glass will be forthcoming at some unspecified time.
The Google Glass team will be moving out of Google X to become an independent entity reporting to Tony Fadell, cofounder and CEO of smart thermometer maker Nest, which Google acquired a year ago.
The Glass team put a positive spin on its reorganization, characterizing it as a move from an open beta concept toward reality.
Jan. 19 will be the last day consumers can get the Glass Explorer Edition.
What Is and What Should Never Be
The announcement revived speculation that Google may be planning to kill off Glass.
“There are two possibilities, said Mike Jude, a program manager at Frost & Sullivan. “One is that Google means what it says, and Glass was an experimental product it put out to test the market, and now it’s curtailing sales and will come out with a consumer device for the retail market at a lower price point.”
The other possibility is that Google “wants to kill this turkey and wants to put it in a group that has plenty of experience killing turkeys,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
Fadell’s leadership could suggest either option, according to Jude, because Faddell “is already used to dealing with profit and loss, and packaging, and things you need to bring a product to market.”
Weighing the Odds
It’s not clear which way Google might jump.
Google may realize “that the existing device needs an overhaul of sorts, and that it’s smarter to move development of the new version behind closed doors,” ventured Matt McGee, founder of Glass Almanac.
“New products are best developed out of the often harsh glare of the public spotlight,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
The existing version of Glass “offers a lot of features and benefits in certain lines of work,” McGee pointed out. These include healthcare, education and training.
For example, Pristine has built a “scalable, secure, robust, remote-collaboration suite for Glass to help local technicians fix problems that they otherwise never could have,” noted founder Kyle Samani.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital plans to launch a study on reducing maternal stress in mothers of newborn babies in the intensive care unit by providing the women with Google Glass and a tablet when they visit.
Emergency unit doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are equipped with Google Glass to access patient records hands-free, while uMass Memorial Medical Center is testing whether Glass can help doctors remotely diagnose toxicology problems.
What Glass Users Think
Response to Google’s Glass announcement was mixed.
“Excellent news! We’re thrilled to see what’s next for Glass!” wrote Cecilia Abadie.
“It’s been a fun ride. Can’t wait to see the next iteration of Glass. Thanks everyone for all your work,” wrote Christopher Chavez.
“This news is bittersweet,” wrote Keith I. Myers. “I am happy to hear that Glass is moving out of Google X but I am also deeply concerned for the future of the Glass program as a whole. I know there are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Many of those questions revolve around what the move means for current owners of the device.
Will Google continue to accept contributions? Myers asked. Will it support future OS upgrades to Glass, or leave current users “stuck on KitKat?”
Google did not respond to our request to comment for this story.