Google Glass Success Will Rely on Business Users

TheStreet.com

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For those of you who are saying that Google's Google Glass will not be a major consumer sales success for at least the next two to three years, you are probably right. Two years from now, Google Glass probably won't have hit 1% consumer market penetration in the U.S.

But it will still have been a success. Why? Because of industrial and other business users.

Google Glass will come down in price from the initial $1,500, but even when the price hits $999 and $499 and even if there's a major "killer app," there will be consumer reluctance to buy this product. There is likely greater friction in selling something in that physical form factor, compared to a smartphone or even a watch.

Look at other technologies, however, and you will see that they are often not adopted by regular consumers first:

  • The car: In the beginning, it was a truck, used for utility of transporting things, not used by individuals for pleasure.
  • The fax machine: Before people had them at home, they were in offices.
  • The computer: Most people first encountered a computer in a business before they purchased one for home use.
  • Mobile email: In the early days (1999-2001), the BlackBerry was exclusively a business product. Only in 2002 did it start to become a consumer product.
  • Videotape recorder: First, it was used in studios. Then, in the 1970s, it started migrating to people's homes.


One can easily envision a scenario where a huge percentage of workers (50% or more) in a few short years could be required to wear Google Glass -- or equivalent -- most or all of the time.

Here are some of the reasons and benefits:

  1. For people with direct physical consumer contact -- such as in a car dealership, cafe, hotel or bank -- Google Glass could help identify the consumer and therefore provide better service.
  2. For supervisors, they would have a much better window into how each employee is acting in their interactions with customers, at all times. That whole "This call may be recorded to ensure quality customer service" now takes on a new meaning. You don't think Starbucks will require all of its employees to wear Glass? Hotel receptionists? Car service supervisors? Of course they will!
  3. The military has probably spent billions of dollars over decades developing something like Google Glass. As expensive as Google Glass are even today, they are probably a bargain compared to the U.S. government trying to come up with something of the kind.
  4. Police and other emergency personnel: For liability and coordination purposes, Google Glass could greatly improve the accuracy and efficiency of emergency services. Police could identify people, look up license tags, and record interactions with the public as well as suspects, far better with Google Glass. Ambulance personnel could get help diagnosing people who are at risk of dying.

It's hard to think of a profession where wearing Google Glass may not become almost mandatory in a few short years from now. School teachers? Talk about a carrot and stick approach for encouraging excellence in teaching!

What about government bureaucrats sitting in City Hall, a state capitol or Washington D.C.? With Google Glass, the taxpayer might actually get to see what they are paying for, to the tune of almost $4 trillion per year on the federal level alone.

Many of us suspect that the vast majority of government bureaucrats do little else but surf porn between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. If we equip all government bureaucrats with Google Glass, each taxpayer could get a real-time view into what all of these millions of bureaucrats do all day long.

I suspect that the result would be a large majority of Americans quickly demanding that all government bureaucrats be fired, and their budgets eliminated. Google Glass would solve our budget deficit and government debt problems!


What about the impact on Google itself? There are at least two questions we have to answer, just for starters:

1. Will Google be first to market?

It looks like it. This kind of product requires a lot of resources spent on R&D, including time, to make for a good product. Google itself just barely hit the beta test stage, with final consumer product arriving in 2014.

It is pretty obvious that Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and others will also be in this market as soon as they can. Any early time-to-market advantage in a field such as this, could prove extremely important, however.

2. Does Android/Chrome have an advantage over iOS and Windows?

This is far from clear, but all other things equal, would you rather bet on what is perceived to be the more open operating systems? We can imagine a scenario where all other traditional computing hardware companies, from Samsung to HTC, LG, Huawei, Sony, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, HP, Dell, Amazon and many more -- choose to build their own computerized eyeglasses based on Android or Chrome OS.

It is, of course, not a given that that they would. Perhaps they would decide to build their glasses to pair with iOS, Windows or BlackBerry's OS 10. Given the current rate of innovation and third-party momentum -- including Google's new best friend Facebook -- however, I think the odds are in Google's favor now.

The early Google Glass thought leaders and pioneers -- so-called "Glassholes" -- who are currently spreading the gospel of total societal transparency and intimidation along the Palo Alto University Avenue cafes, are all pairing them with Android smartphones, not iPhones. As Vlad Lenin said back in 1921, economic power is to control the "commanding heights" of society. In this case of Google Glass today, the Glassholes and the smartphones they use -- Android -- are the commanding heights of the new increasingly Google-fied economy.

Main Street in Peoria hasn't felt it yet, but the drumbeat emanating from Silicon Valley is increasingly in Google's corner.

At the time of publication the author was long GOOG, AAPL and FB.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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