Let's face it -- Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Glass has been a bit of a disappointment. When the device debuted a few years ago, it put a face on the wearables market and showed us new ways of connecting to the Internet, communicating with people, navigating city sidewalks, and accessing information on the fly. But since then, interest in Glass among the public and developers has died down.
But that's not stopping Google from revamping Glass' hardware in 2015 and trying to revive a device that has always had so much potential.
What's new next year
Google hasn't said much about what it's doing to Glass next year, but a new report from The Wall Street Journal says Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) will now power the device with one of its chips, replacing Texas Instruments' processor.
That could spark a significant change in and of itself for Glass. Right now the device suffers from poor battery life and slow processing (because of an upgrade to KitKat earlier this year). In theory, a newer Intel chip designed for wearable devices could increase the processing power and improve battery life. Since neither Intel nor Google are saying much about the update right now, it's also possible Intel could simply be the main manufacturer of the Glass processors and use an ARM Holdings design instead of one of its own. Either way, Intel will most likely be supplying the processor.
What could break Glass
To date, Glass has done a pretty poor job of winning over the public. Privacy advocates are concerned over its video recording and image capturing features. Many developers (Twitter for one) have stopped updating their Glass apps, because there aren't enough people using it to make it worth their time. Meanwhile, the device still faces a huge social hurdle of putting an ever-present screen in front of the user's eye. Simply put, it's an awkward device that users can't hide.
But even if Google were able to overcome the awkwardness, convince more developers to come on board, and somehow appease the public's privacy concerns, there's still one thing that could hurt Glass' reboot in 2015.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is set to release its new smart watch early next year, and that could prove very problematic for Glass. Though the Apple Watch is still an unproven device in a nascent market, it has a much lower barrier for adoption than a set of glasses. Apple's been pushing the fashion aspect of its watch since its debut, while Glass still comes across as a functional, but clunky device on a user's head.
That may seem like a cheap shot at Glass, but when we're talking about devices that cost hundreds of dollars and are created to be worn everyday, you can bet that devices like Apple Watch and Google Glass will live or die on how natural or awkward a user feels while wearing them.
Of course, even if the Apple Watch becomes a great success and sells the estimated 24 million units UBS estimates Apple will sell in fiscal year 2015, that doesn't mean Glass will automatically die off -- even if it is panned by mainstream users, it could find a loyal base in the enterprise market.
Google's Glass team has been been working on Glass for Work functionality, which makes the device very marketable to industries that need real-time and hands-free information. Even before Glass for Work, Google's device has proven beneficial in the health care industry. Glass has been used to help people with Parkinson's and support emergency room staff.
And that's one place where I think Glass will live on. Not in the mass market but in the niche corners where a watch doesn't make sense. Even with a 2015 hardware update, the fundamental aspects of Glass will remain the same. And that will keep it from experiencing the success smart watches will enjoy next year.
Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), Intel, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), Intel, and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.