Newspaper article International New York Times

In Retreat, Google to Stop Sales of Smart Glasses ; Suspension of Project Offers Case Study in Perils of Making Hardware

Newspaper article International New York Times

In Retreat, Google to Stop Sales of Smart Glasses ; Suspension of Project Offers Case Study in Perils of Making Hardware

Article excerpt

Consumers were never quite sure what to make of Google's Internet- connected glasses, and privacy concerns were an issue.

You won't have Google Glass to kick around anymore. At least not for a while.

On Thursday, Google announced that it would stop selling its much- ridiculed smart glasses and that the product would no longer be developed in Google X, the company's research division.

In a blog post on the Google Plus social network, Google said Glass was graduating from X. It will still be available to "certified partners" and for commercial trials in places like hospitals and factories. But the Explorer program, in which software developers and gadget nerds could buy a test version of the product, is over.

The company isn't abandoning Glass, but it is at least pressing the reset button. In an unusual arrangement, the company said Glass would stay within Google, but that its chief, Ivy Ross, would report to Tony Fadell, who helped design and create Apple's iPod before inventing the Nest thermostat. Google acquired Nest early last year.

"Google decided that they need to turn this product over to someone who knows how to bring a consumer product to market, both from a design perspective and a marketing perspective," said J.P. Gownder, an analyst at Forrester Research.

The move signals a humbling retreat for Glass, the Internet- connected glasses that allow users to do things like snap pictures with a blink of an eye or send emails with their voices. A little more than two years ago, Glass was the star of Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, and a central piece of the company's efforts to move deeper into selling hardware.

At that conference, Sergey Brin, a Google co-founder, had a live video chat with a couple of wing-suited sky divers as they jumped out of a plane. Later that year, Time named Glass one of the best innovations of 2012. Some people called it fashion and others used it for art.

Today, Glass is more like a case study in the perils of developing hardware whose purpose is not clear. Unlike, say, the iPhone -- which cleverly combined products people already understood and used -- consumers weren't quite sure what to make of Glass. That unnerved some people.

The device was pre-emptively banned by bars and large parts of Las Vegas. Legislators in West Virginia tried to make it illegal to use the gadget while driving.

"There's no vision for why people actually need this device," Mr. Gownder said. "That's a problem. When you don't have that, people fill that in with their own assumptions, and right now the assumption is that this is a device for recording people."

Glass also highlights Google's uneven track record when it comes to consumer products. Google TV faced poor reviews and delays. …

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