Is Google Glass Poised To Become The Betamax Of Wearables?

“We’re running a clinical trial on the use of Google Glass in a hospital setting,” said the young man across from me, excitedly. “This could change everything!”

“Oh,” I replied. “But didn’t Google just cancel the Glass program?”

He looked deflated. “It’s not so much about Google Glass,” he backpedaled. “It’s more about, you know, wearables, and how they affect doctor-patient behavior. What we’re learning is applicable across the board, whether it’s with Glass or some other technology.”

I felt bad, and said, soothingly, “Sounds like a great idea. Let me know how you get on.” Inside, I was thinking, “Good luck getting continued funding.”

After all, for two weeks I’d been seeing headlines like, “Google finally admits Glass ‘failure,’” and, “Google Glass: What went wrong,” and “Google Glass Failed Because It Just Wasn’t Cool.”



You didn’t have to be a crack researcher to glean from these tickertape stories the fact that Google Glass had failed, right? Except, of course, it hasn’t -- and it wasn’t long before I realized that I was, once again, completely wrong about everything.

First of all, from the official announcement: “[I]nterest in wearables has exploded and today it’s one of the most exciting areas in technology. Glass at Work has been growing and we’re seeing incredible developments with Glass in the workplace. As we look to the road ahead, we realize that we’ve outgrown the lab and so we’re officially “graduating” from Google[x] to be our own team here at Google. We’re thrilled to be moving even more from concept to reality.

As part of this transition, we’re closing the Explorer Program so we can focus on what’s coming next. January 19 will be the last day to get the Glass Explorer Edition. In the meantime, we’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready.”

OK Glass, so you haven’t “failed,” and the program isn’t “canceled,” and the fact that you “just weren’t cool” is axiomatic of technologies at your stage of development. (Five years ago, I wrote about Peter de Jager and his framework for considering whether certain technologies would become widely adopted. Any argument against the uptake of a new technology that involves its size or price, he says, is useless. They shrink, these prices and devices, and -- with the possible exception of the Segway -- they become nicer to look at and slicker to use.)

But there was something in the Glass announcement that was even more interesting for the young man on the other side of my table. Did you catch it? Here it is again: “Glass at Work has been growing and we’re seeing incredible developments with Glass in the workplace.”

This is the basis for a recent Wired article: “Sorry, But Google Glass Isn’t Anywhere Close to Dead.” Cade Metz delves into the work of cognitive neuroscientist Ned Sahin, whose Brain Power startup is using Glass to help autistic kids learn how to interact with others: “But for Sahin and many others running companies developing Glass software for medical, industrial, and other sectors, Google’s eyewear is far from dead. On the contrary, Google is selling these companies as many devices as they need, and by all appearances, it’s ramping up the number of Google employees working to turn Glass into something more than a consumer gadget that looks funny on your face. ‘We have unimpeded access to Google Glass units and support,’ says Ian Shakil, the CEO of, an outfit offering Glass software designed to help doctors juggle health records. ‘It’s all a plus for us -- except for the fact that we constantly have to field questions from people and customers asking what’s going on with Google.’ “

People and customers like me, I suppose. In the late ‘70s, Sony’s Betamax lost the war with VHS to become consumer format of choice, and won the professional market instead. Glass may or may not have lost the consumer format war -- but on the professional side, it’s actually looking pretty cool.

2 comments about "Is Google Glass Poised To Become The Betamax Of Wearables?".
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  1. Aldon Hynes from Community Health Center, Inc., February 20, 2015 at 11:23 a.m.

    Back in the summer of 2013, when I picked up my Google Glass, I pondered whether Google Glass would be the Apple Newton of wearable computing. It may still be a bit early to tell.

    However, comparing Google Glass to Betamax might be much more appropriate. While Betamax lost in the consumer market, the related betacam format thrived in professional videography.

    It will be interesting to watch how both Google Glass and the broader wearable market evolves over the coming years.

    (To see one of my early comments about Google Glass and Apple Newton, check out )

  2. Bob Sacco from Travel Ad Network/Travora Media, February 20, 2015 at 11:44 a.m.

    For all who lived through Apple vs. Microsoft in the 90s know exactly what I'm talking about.

    And for all who are liberal arts majors and have an engineer major friend know exactly what I'm talking about.

    Google glass is about as clueless and sexy as Steve Balmer.

    Yes, it's true, all things must pass. Google like Microsoft will eventually follow the same path into left-brain hell.

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