Is Tim Cook Wrong About Google Glass?

Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  )  CEO Tim Cook has certainly made it clear he doesn't mind criticizing the competition. 

For example, back in February, he panned the OLED technology used by Samsung in the screens of its Galaxy series devices, while at the same time, offered Apple's own Retina Displays as a superior alternative. While I happened to find those comments particularly curious considering Apple had reportedly just hired an OLED expert of its own, that still didn't stop shares of OLED supplier Universal Display from falling as much as 7% that day.

Even so, it's hard to blame Cook for wanting to extol the virtues of his own company's strategy and products.

Shattering Google Glass
Now, Cook has trained his sights on the search behemoth Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) .

More specifically, while discussing the future of wearable technology last week at the D11 Conference hosted by AllThingsD, Cook stated, in no uncertain terms, that he doesn't think many people will buy Google Glass.

Why not?

Though he admitted there were "some positive points in the product," here are three choice quotes he used to take jabs at Google Glass:

  • "I think it's probably more likely to appeal to certain vertical markets, and I think the likelihood it has broad-range appeal ... that's tough to see."
     
  • "There's nothing great out there that I've seen. There's nothing that's going to convince a kid who has never worn glasses, or a band, or a watch, or whatever to wear one ... or at least I haven't seen any."
     
  • "I wear glasses because I have to ... I don't know a lot of people that wear them that don't have to. They want them to be light and unobtrusive and reflect their fashion ... so I think from a mainstream point of view [glasses as wearable computing devices] are difficult to see. I think the wrist is interesting. The wrist is natural."

One reason he may be wrong
First, as the folks over at the Huffington Post so astutely pointed out, it's no coincidence that Google partnered with designer glasses start-up Warby Parker, best known for making trendy (and often bulky) "hipster glasses." 

Even so, with or without incorporated lenses, Google's own pictures of the device make it hard to claim Google Glass is particularly gaudy:

Image source: Google

Better yet, if recent reports prove true which say Google has decided to use ultra-slim OLED displays from Samsung in the commercial version Glass, you can bet the final product will be even more streamlined by the time it's offered to the masses. 

The bigger picture
However, while fashion could undoubtedly lead to a variety of interesting arguments for or against owning Google Glass, a larger question remains which could easily determine Google's success or failure: What level of invasiveness are people willing to accept in the first significant iteration of wearable computing?

To be sure, a computer worn near the eye is bound to be more closely tied into our everyday lives than a watch, but that's exactly what's making people nervous about Google Glass. After all, though many people are arguably too-often connected to their digital lives through smartphones at present, Google Glass takes those electronic interactions to an entirely new, more intimate level.

Worse yet, privacy concerns had surfaced even before the device was released to 2,000 beta testers last month, even as Google had added simple safeguards like a voice command requirement for taking pictures. Unsurprisingly, hackers quickly released an app -- appropriately dubbed Winky -- to enable users to simply wink to snap a photo.

As another example, if you have a habit of ducking away from awkward conversations before people see you, you might hate that a San Francisco-based tech start-up named Lambda Labs is set to release a Facial Recognition API for Google Glass in the very near future.

Foolish final thoughts
In the end, Tim Cook may be right in saying Google Glass isn't ready for commercial adoption on a wide scale, but it's not for the reasons he thinks. 

On one hand, Apple may be better off if they enter the space by unveiling a smart watch of their own, but Cook will have his work cut out for him if he wants to convince consumers they absolutely cannot live without an Apple device strapped to their wrists. Google Glass, on the other hand, certainly boasts that "wow" factor, but Big G took such a huge leap forward with their tech that they might be scaring consumers away.

For what it's worth, this technology isn't exactly Google's first long-term oriented project to freak people out; it's safe to say the company's driver-less cars have attracted a fair amount of skepticism so far. In addition, chairman Eric Schmidt did say last month the commercial release of Glass is still "probably a year-ish" away, so they've got at least some time to iron out the details before their prime time debut. 

But what do you think? Is the world ready to accept Google Glass? Share you thoughts in the comments section below.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 11:08 PM, ScottAtlanta wrote:

    Yes. One easy image to support this is one where at some event....everyone has their cellphones up in the air in front of their faces...the entire crowd, recording the event. Even at the expense of enjoying the event more fully by say....dancing at a concert.

    Glass will allow people to do this without obstruction. Some will hesitate to wear at all public venues (running errands vs. special events) but most won't, they'll make the transition quickly.

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2013, at 10:44 AM, SRNoyes wrote:

    Using Glass in a public venue like a concert will get you nothing but the back of heads recorded. There is a reason people are shown holding their phones high above their heads.

    I think Cook is 100% right on Google Glass just like he is on the current OLED. OLED does have some plusses (such as high contrast) but also has some serious downsides with the biggest being simply horrid colors. When I say OLED has horrid colors, I mean this in a big way. The colors are "vivid" and "brilliant" but they are far far from accurate. The "vivid" and "brilliant" may be good for the average person but it is not good if you need to use a device for any type of post processing or portfolio display. Common applications for many that use iOS devices. The simply fact the color of my MacBook matches the color on a calibrated Windows monitor matches my iPad matches my iPhone is STUNNING!!!

    Cook is right on Glass as well. It has some plusses and could see some vertical market success but will miss the mass market appeal. For example, look at "Star Trek: Into Darkness" for one fictional view of the future. I think this represents how Glass will be used: in targeted applications. The transporter chief. The navigator. But in general, no-one was wearing glasses at all. Most people wear glasses because they have to. You wear sunglasses to avoid eye fatigue in bright lighting outside. Few will accept the increased eye fatigue Google Glass will offer and given the design is basically finished (as indicated by Brin a week back), I don't expect any drastic changes in styling or tech. In fact, Google Glass may become the most hyped vaporware product on the '10's.

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2013, at 8:33 PM, ScottAtlanta wrote:

    First effect of Apple KoolAid....blindness....then an untimely death...last enigmatic words "mcIntosh" though some will utter "rosebud."

    What did they say about cellphones....? Oh...too expensive...oh, who needs to be "bothered" all the time....oh, why would you want that when there are pay phones everywhere....and on and on.

    A smartphone is just an extension of the cell phone. Glass is the next evolution of tech...getting it wearable and convenient.....why have glasses, the form the function been around SOOOOOOO long? B/c it works...it works very well and as a minimal encumbrance.....this is where the tech will migrate too.

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2013, at 8:42 PM, ScottAtlanta wrote:

    Oh, and if everyone's arms are down at the concert...you'll see the show through your Glass(es)...short people will always suffer....like R. Newman sings.

  • Report this Comment On June 03, 2013, at 7:35 AM, jdmeck wrote:

    I think it's a dumb product, I will never buy one and if Apple goes down that route, I hope they can do something much better with it.

  • Report this Comment On June 04, 2013, at 11:48 PM, SRNoyes wrote:

    "why have glasses, the form the function been around SOOOOOOO long?"

    Because people need them to see. Period. Given the choice, people don't WANT to wear them.

    First effect of Google worship. Loss of common sense and then you walk in front of a moving train increasing the IQ of the general public. Google Glass has WAY too many issues from a social stand-point to have any mass market penetration. Even your concert dream relies on:

    1) putting short people up front.

    2) having EVERYONE have a Glass type HUD.

    3) have no one dancing with their arms in the air.

    4) having no one with the hot babe on their shoulders.

    I am amazed at the number of otherwise smart people that throughout all thought processes because Google is doing Google Glass. Glass will see some specific market uses and do very well in some (very isolated) markets. As it is now, it is not a product for the masses.

  • Report this Comment On June 07, 2013, at 12:08 AM, ScottAtlanta wrote:

    lol....they're doing it with cell phones NOW.

    Anything that frees up your hands for said g.friend or b.friend will be adopted. Wake up.

  • Report this Comment On June 29, 2013, at 6:17 AM, lakov wrote:

    Here is more on why Tim Cook is wrong about Google Glass: http://lifeinsoftware.com/2013/06/28/apple-ceo-tim-cook-wron...

    In short, the common reasons given why active glasses won’t work don’t hold water – the privacy “invasion” is similar to the one with cell phones, so not a make-it-or-break-it issue; bans from businesses and legislation are nothing new and won’t break the market either; the cost will decrease over time; they will progressively include more and more functionality and will become better; the prescription glasses argument is bogus – of course they’ll make active glasses work with prescription glasses – even if it’s not in v.1. Five years from now, we’ll all merrily wear them and we’ll wonder how we used to live without them.

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