Google Glass exploded into the tech scene in 2012 with the pomp and circumstance of an Apple product unveiling. It put “wearable technology” into the lexicon of the masses. Accolades poured in from both the technology world and the fashion world. Celebrities, politicians, runway models, even Prince Charles wore them in public. And yet, as of January 2015, Google Glass as we knew it was no more.
There are many great articles that explored what went wrong. I will not repeat the many excellent points made. Instead, I would like to explore how Google approaches new technology development, and how that approach, together with the initial public relations hype and the lack of a killer app, ultimately led Google Glass down the path of a reboot.
GOOGLE AND THE TECHNOLOGY-PUSH APPROACH
First of all, Google is fundamentally a technology company, run by technocrats. They even make product manager candidates do whiteboard coding during job interviews. Google does not define and develop products like Proctor and Gamble: through market pull and problem identification. Instead, Google consistently pursues products as technology pushes. This approach often results in solutions that are either in search of a problem, or solves a problem in a less-than-effective manner. Think about Google+,Google Wave, Google Health, or other former Google projects which were subsequently shelved.
A technology push process is not necessarily an invalid strategy for Google. With an R&D spend of $2.18B in Q4 2014 alone, Google can afford to take large-scale risks. So, they try many things – and some fail. Project Glass’s first incarnation happened to be one of them.