The product went further than most things the company's fabled Moonshots division has developed. Google Glass made it from concept to reality and spent an extended period of time being tested by a large group of people through Google's Explorers program. Glass was even briefly released to consumers. But that's where its momentum ended.
It may have been that the price of around $1,500 was too high, or it may have just been that the time hasn't yet come for regular people to have a heads-up display projected in front of their eyes on computer-like glasses.
Whatever the reason, Google quickly pulled the product from the market and sent it back into development. Many assumed that, at least for a long time, the idea of Google Glass was dead. But apparently that was not the case.
Though the consumer version is no more, Google has quietly begun distributing a new take on the wearable eyeglasses-like computer "aimed at businesses in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and energy," The Wall Street Journal reported.
What is Google doing?
The revised version of Glass looks a lot like the model that was distributed to people in the Explorers program. It's not as stylish as the models sold to consumers. Instead, it's a curved rectangle with a button-and-hinge system to attach the mini-computer to different glasses, the paper reported.
Google has no plans to formally reintroduce Glass. Unlike the first time it was rolled out to the public with great fanfare (skydivers brought it into a company event in 2012), Google is taking an understated approach this time. And while the company isn't talking, the Journal did have specific evidence of its existence and its possible future as a business tool: "Google is distributing the new model to software developers creating programs to use the device in business settings. The goal is to have businesses using the device by fall."
The new model, the paper reported, has a faster Intel processor, longer-lasting batteries, and better wireless connectivity.
This just makes sense
Google Glass was always a bit of far-fetched idea as a mass-consumer product. It's simply a little too geeky for most people to walk around wearing a mini-computer. It seemed cool in concept, and at a lower price it might have caught on with the Comicon crowd, but it wasn't going to become widely used anytime soon.
As a business tool, Glass makes a lot more sense. The device, for example, can give a surgeons needed information without forcing them to move their hands. It might also be useful in law enforcement, where it could give officers information and serve in place of the body cameras that more departments are using.
Using Google Glass only in professional settings also addresses the privacy concerns the original model raised. People were worried that the product gave people surreptitious recording devices strapped to their faces.
That's not likely to be an issue with the new model, partly because it would be used only in a business setting, and partly because the design makes it more obvious when it's being worn.
Selling Glass only to businesses also makes the price less of a concern, as $1,500 is a huge price to pay for a personal electronic device -- especially a novelty one. In a professional setting, especially if it improves efficiency or makes things safer, that's a small price to pay.
Google is doing what it should have done all along, and it's being smartly quiet about it. Glass has a strong future as a professional product, and it could become a stealth hit for the company.
Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He wears glasses, but they don't do anything special beyond stopping him from walking into stuff. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Intel. 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.
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