Back in April 2013, Google stunned the tech world with a sensational wearable device that seemed to be cut out of a Hollywood science fiction flick. For up to three times more than you would pay for a good smartphone, you could get a device that had to be worn on the face. Well, if that does not sound right for you, it definitely didn’t sound too good for a lot of other consumers.
Google Glass, as it was branded, went on sale to the general public in May, but Google never released any information about its success, making many tech experts and pundits believe that it was a disastrous financial flop. However, why and how did Google Glass end up failing? How could such a high-tech product coming from one of the largest companies in the world become a commercial and financial failure?
Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons:
The design and the concept was wrong right from the start
Designed by Isabelle Olsson, an award winning industrial engineer and designer, the concept was considered by many a weird concoction right from its first baby steps. If you want to have a device that people have to wear several hours a day on their face, you either have to make it fashionable and chic, or you go the other way, and make it as inconspicuous and as discrete as possible. Unfortunately, the design team somehow managed to make it both conspicuous and unfashionable, or simply put, visible and ugly. It was seen as a banner on your face that was screaming “Hey! Look at me! I am a nerd!”. Sure, you may look cool at your local gaming convention, but what happens if you show up with it at a rave concert or a bikers’ bar?
The social stigma
When mobile phones became popular, in the 1990s, many people were feeling uneasy about the lack of privacy and intimacy caused by the new technology. People were making and receiving phone calls during dinners, meetings, and personal conversations, and this newly found flexibility was hard to get used to, at least during the early stages of the mobile revolution.
Although now we are very used to people getting phone calls, email notifications, or multimedia messages in the nick of time, Google Glass was criticized because it pushed this social etiquette to its limits. Many people complained that they felt as if they were secretly recorded by this weird, James Bond-esque gadget. With the new device, the so called “creepiness” factor reached new levels that were very hard to overlook by some users, and many of us hate the “voyeuristic” tendencies of many media products. For example, when you take out a video camera and start recording during a private conversation, your interlocutor can respond, but Google Glass acts as an intrusive, invisible spy.
All in all, the new wearable smartphone made people feel uncomfortable and even angry, and that is not good for business, even for a giant like Google.
Acting cool is not always cool
This is, in some ways, very similar to the club scene on every Saturday night: guys wearing their Porsche or BMW car keys around their necks, as a public display of affluence or as a mating dance. But just as a Google Glass device can be a sign of affluence, it can also be a seen as a political statement, coming from a select segment of highly paid tech workers in places such as the Silicon Valley.
An example of this attitude is the infamous incident where Sarah Slocum was a victim of a bar brawl, where her Google Glass device was torn off by a group of so-called “Glass haters”. While this incident can be regarded as singular and rare, the tension between these two social groups exists, and Google quickly came out with an official statement on the subject, saying that all consumers should expect to be ignored and treat any aggression with patience and calm.
Although Google tried to mediate the conflict in a decent, corporate manner, this advice does little to tame the negative spirits. And for those looking for a high quality online fax services he recommends first making comparisons online at www.findafax.com.