Dead or alive: What next for Google Glass app developers?
Having shut down its consumer-focused Google Glass operations, we look at whether the news signals the end for ‘Glassware’ start-ups...
You’d have to have lived under a rock for the last year to not know about Google Glass – the tech giant’s controversial smartglasses which display information in an augmented hands-free-type format. Launched in the UK in June 2014 following two years of extensive trials in the US, the Glass was available to purchase in beta for £1,000.
Dubbed “hugely innovative” by some while wearers have been named “Glassholes” by others, Google’s eyewear device was, and still is, a hot topic in the tech world and there had been rumours of a mass market roll-out across the UK and US this year.
Just recently, The Wall Street Journal claimed there was to be a “complete makeover” of the device with the inclusion of Intel processors and Sims. Early January 2015, Tesco announced the launch of its shopping app for Glass – ‘Tesco Groceries’ – and YSL had even entered the sector with Google Glass make-up tutorials, launched in December.
Yet all is not what it seemed and contrary to speculation, and on the back of tech criticism that the device would become “this era’s segway”, Google announced it was to halt the sale of its Glass device to consumers via its Explorer programme while it redesigns the product.
General consensus is that it is apps which determine the successfulness of the Google Glass device so what does Google’s announcement mean for tech developers and start-ups already active in the space? And what does the announcement mean for entrepreneurs looking to create their own Google Glass app?
You may think the news marks the death of Google Glass and while the longevity of consumer apps such as Refresh and Word Lens now looks doubtful, founders in the space claim opportunities still exist for enterprise-focused Glass apps – through Google’s Glass at Work arm…
Glass at Work
The growing market for Glass apps that are business-focused means there are still some exciting prospects for Glassware and it’s possible to target specific industries such as healthcare and manufacturing using Google’s Glass at Work programme for commercial and enterprise solutions.
Earlier this month, American “Google Glass for doctors” Augmedix closed an impressive $16m Series A funding round for its app which enables doctors wearing the device to verbally enter data or call up a patient’s electronic health record. The deal, which brought the start-up’s total funding to $23m, would send alarm bells for many an investor but in an interview with Forbes, the start-up’s chief executive Ian Shakil said: “Our supply of Glass v1 remains unaffected. Google’s support is unaffected.”
Shakil continued: “Right now Google Glass is doing quite well in enterprise. If you look at Glass as a consumer and you look at what tablets are like and what smartphones are like, if you look at the early days, you see that they started in enterprise. For the next couple of years, that will be Glass.”
Augmedix is already in use at 35 sites in 10 US states and had previously quoted plans to grow 10-fold this year, so while Google’s announcement will make it harder for new Glass developers to enter the industry, existing businesses in the enterprise sector can still prosper and that’s not to say all is lost for new Glass start-ups.
The fact Google is taking its efforts away from the current Glass device means it will be able to concentrate on its it’s enterprise app development – it may still look at adding more Glass for Work ventures to its portfolio although Google is yet to comment further.
The future of Google Glass
Google is adamant that the Glass device is still in development and while it’s likely that a new version will be released at some point, if you’re an app developer looking to start your own Glass app then turn your attentions to commercial B2B opportunities. If Shakil’s claims are well founded, the Google Glass opportunity is far from dead…