Google (GOOG -2.22%) (GOOGL -2.10%) Glass is a polarizing product. Last May, a survey from Bite Interactive found that 90% of Americans wouldn't wear Google Glass because of social awkwardness. In April of this year, research firm Toluna found that 72% of Americans refused to buy Glass because of privacy concerns.
Despite those challenges on the consumer end, many people overlook Glass' potential as a business device. Glass' heads-up augmented reality features could certainly be used in various professions, such as healthcare, education, media, and even law enforcement. Could those possible applications help Google Glass and Android gain ground in the enterprise market against Apple (AAPL -1.38%), Microsoft, and BlackBerry (BB -4.58%)?
Glass at Work
Back in April, Google launched "Glass at Work," an initiative to explore enterprise uses for Glass. In June, Google announced its first five partners -- APX Labs, Augmedix, CrowdOptic, GuidiGo, and Wearable Intelligence.
APX Labs creates apps for Glass that offer users hands-free, real-time access to enterprise data. Augmedix helps doctors by pulling data from a patient's electronic health record onto Glass' display. In live sports, CrowdOptic convinced several NBA and NFL teams to beam video to the Jumbotron via Glass. At museums and cultural sites, GuidiGo converts Google Glass into an augmented reality tour guide. Wearable Intelligence develops Glass apps for workers in energy, manufacturing, healthcare, and other fields.
Google Glass could also have a future in law enforcement and the military. In May, police in Dubai started using Google Glass to track traffic violators and record license plate numbers. In June, Tracking Point unveiled a Glass app for rifles, aided by a mounted camera, which allowed shooters to safely fire around corners.
A question of security
While all of those applications sound like great ways for Google to connect workers to its Android ecosystem via Glass, Android still isn't considered as secure as iOS or BlackBerry 10. In response to those concerns, Google is integrating Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Knox, a rival security platform to BB10, directly into Android L (5.0). The current version of Knox only runs on select Samsung devices. However, Knox remains a distant underdog compared to BlackBerry.
The U.S. Department of Defense, for example, still provides 90% of the military with BlackBerry devices. Out of the 100,000 devices being tested in its new DOD Mobility Implementation Plan, 80% will be BlackBerrys, while the remainder will be a mix of iOS and Samsung Knox Android devices. This shows that Knox is gaining ground as a security platform, but it still has a lot to prove before it can be considered BlackBerry's counterpart.
Unless Knox can be accepted as a viable replacement for BlackBerry, Glass -- which currently runs on Android 4.4 -- won't gain much steam in the enterprise segment.
Three key strategies could lead to disruption
Despite those problems, Google Glass could gain traction in enterprise with three key strategies.
First, it has to make Glass more affordable than iPads, which are gaining traction in the workplace thanks to Apple's recent enterprise deal with IBM. Glass reportedly only costs $80 to make, according to Teardown.com, which means the final commercial version could be priced much cheaper than its current "Explorer" price tag of $1,500.
Second, if Samsung Knox gains more market share against BB10, and Google upgrades Glass to Android L, security concerns should fade. This would help Glass overcome major obstacles like HIPAA regulations in healthcare, which are designed to protect the privacy of patient records.
Third, if Google Glass grows a large enough enterprise footprint, BlackBerry will ironically help Google with BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 12, a unified "control panel" that allows companies to monitor all employee devices running BlackBerry, iOS, and Android. Therefore, BES 12 could actually help Google -- and companies -- keep track of Glass usage among employees.
A Foolish final word
Google Glass still has a long way to go before becoming a widely accepted enterprise device. However, I believe Glass has strong potential in the enterprise market if Google launches it at an affordable price, convinces more app developers join Glass at Work, and Android L proves itself as a secure business platform. If Glass becomes more prominent in the workplace, they might not seem so out of place in everyday life -- which could finally pave the way for wider mainstream acceptance.