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Eve Darkan
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Eve Darkan

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I've just sold my Explorer Edition of Google Glass. Everything indicates that the product is at the end of its life cycle. This might come as a surprise to some. I've had the device for a year now, and since the prescription frames came out I've been wearing it on a daily basis(!). My experience with it has also been very positive, I've never had a bad reaction in public and the device has several features that I frequently use. Most features actually have become scarily habitual, if I don't wear Glass I genuinely miss using the Notification Glance (http://goo.gl/zntYZe) and something simple as having the time displayed in the corner of your vision is missed as well. You can debate about whether features like this are 'enough', but I appreciate them.

Even half a year ago things looked quite shiny for Glass. A new 'basecamp' (the official Google Glass store) opened up in London. Fashion powerhouse +DVF released a series of exclusive frames and shades for Glass in the UK in September through high-fashion retailer +NET-A-PORTER. And just a few weeks ago I had a sponsored tweet in my Twitter timeline informing me about how Philips was going to use the Explorer Edition in the medical field. That's great, I guess? Overall sentiment is down however. The London basecamp has closed down and I don't feel as if the DVF frames have had an impact on how people perceive Glass. And there are more bad signs.

Some time ago Reuters journalists wrote an article on how early believers are losing faith (http://goo.gl/g1bEHL). Currently it's still not possible to monetise Glass apps through the Glassware store, and it would surprise me if the hardware installbase is more than 250,000 anyway. Developing Glass apps isn't very interesting from a commercial point of view, and it holds back the innovation potential of the platform. At the same time people are still waiting for a killer app for Glass, but who has an incentive to create one? I hate saying it, but I think the Explorer Edition of Google Glass is coming to the end of its life cycle. It was an incredibly valuable learning exercise, but the Explorer Edition simply isn't product/market fit.

That's not a bad thing, in the hard- and software industry we often don't spend enough time testing the demand for our products and it's great that Google has done this. In fact, I've been working on a new game in our studio and I'm applying Lean principles to the development cycle. Lean as a software development methodology isn't easy to summarise in a few sentences, but a key part of it is that you should deliver your product as early as possible. So for my new game we've hacked together a rough version, are learning lessons from it, and iterate from there. That's quite a difference to regular game development, where you usually build much larger parts of the game, do some occasional user testing, but still largely release it whilst keeping your fingers crossed, hoping that it will be successful. I'm sure that Google is doing something similar for most of their products: release it as quickly as possible, learn lessons from it, and iterate from there, also not being worried about making decisions as late as possible. This might sound scary to traditional product managers, but I'm quite used to it, and know that in the end it results in a better product. But it also means that for now we've ended up with mere iterations of what Glass could be.

Right now I believe Google has learned enough about the current version of Glass, and I'm sure they're preparing the follow-up to the Explorer Edition. Why? Allow me to explain.

A few weeks ago one of the 'Glass Guides' wrote the following on the official Glass messageboards, after Glass users complained that the device simply wasn't what they thought it would be: "Currently, the Glass team is doing a lot work behind the scenes. Not to worry, even though the work’s not out in the open just yet, a lot of what they’re working on came from this type of feedback from you guys and gals." The aforementioned Reuters article also mentions that Google has "hundreds of engineers and executives working on it." And just a few days ago the official Glass account tweeted to a follower making it clear that they expect the next version to cost less. And there's more.

There's seems to be an increase in patent registrations from the Glass team. Most of them are for more subtle changes, but this one has to be the most interesting one so far: http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?PageNum=0&docid=D0710928&IDKey=DC729822AC86&HomeUrl=http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser%3FSect1%3DPTO2%2526Sect2%3DHITOFF%2526u%3D%25252Fnetahtml%25252FPTO%25252Fsearch-adv.htm%2526r%3D1%2526p%3D1%2526f%3DG%2526l%3D50%2526d%3DPTXT%2526S1%3D(Google.ASNM.%252BAND%252BHeinrich.INNM.)%2526OS%3DAN/Google%252BAND%252BIN/Heinrich%2526RS%3D(AN/Google%252BAND%252BIN/Heinrich). It's noticeably sleeker and appears to show the display technology hiding inside the frames, rather than proudly standing out in the open.

But the most blatantly obvious clue probably comes from the Wall Street Journal, a news paper known for posting rumours that basically always are true. Just a month ago they posted an item (http://goo.gl/2WNY5d) stating that Intel Corp. will supply the electronic brains for a new version of Google Inc.’s Glass device expected next year, people familiar with the matter said, part of a push by the semiconductor giant into wearable technology. So there you go.

Making Glass look like regular glasses, and bringing the price down will be two critical next steps in order to bring the product to a larger audience. But there is still the software. Initially Glass had firmware updates once every few weeks. But lately it has been completely quiet on this front. In fact, the last firmware update came out several months ago. Fingers crossed they're hoping on something special.

I suspect most people are still waiting for killer apps that you couldn't live without, and I have a hard time envisioning what those apps would look like. But if the device is more casual and inconspicuous then it doesn't matter that much? Similar to any Android Wear device: it doesn't really have killer apps, it's just a regular watch that does some useful things, all wrapped up in a piece of hardware with a pricetag that makes it worth purchasing for most people. Glass probably works better in a similar environment.

When Google overhauls the firmware for Glass I'm really curious to see what they'll do with it. It sits at such a weird place, you'd think that they should get Glass to start using Android Wear as well, but perhaps I'm wrong? The Glass firmware feels so inconsistent to me. Why does Glass use the OK Glass voice command, but all other Google devices use OK Google? And what OK Google - how futureproof is that once we have multiple devices listening to the exact same voice command? Questions, questions.

Anyway, with all of this in mind I thought it would be wise to sell my Glass. Once the new version is available I'm sure it will be incredibly hard to sell the Explorer Edition second-hand for a decent price. I will miss the device, but it makes me even more excited about the next version. Everything seems to indicate that we're just a few months away from its release, so I'll be patient and look forward to its release with much anticipation.

(/rambly post)
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