Google Glass early release a mistake? Tony Fadell certainly thinks so

27 Jul 2015

In a rather candid interview, the person currently leading the continued development of Google Glass has admitted that its early release may have actually hindered the augmented reality (AR) glasses’ success.

As one of the so-called ‘fathers of the iPod’, Tony Fadell has been drafted in to help following the not-so-successful release of Google Glass back in 2013, when consumers were encouraged to apply and pay as much as US$1,500 to get their hands on one of the prototype versions of the AR glasses.

Unfortunately for these few, Fadell now says he believes that Google made a serious error when it came to this prototype release, with many people at the time thinking they were purchasing a fully-commercial model.

Speaking to the BBC, Fadell – who joined the Google Glass project following Google’s US$3.2bn purchase of his smart thermostat start-up Nest last year – said that Google’s policy of releasing products in their beta stages might work for software, but not necessarily for hardware.

If you’re releasing hardware early, you better get it right

“If you are only doing services based on electrons, you can iterate quickly, test it, and modify it and get it right,” Fadell said. “But when you are dealing with actual atoms – hardware – and you have to get manufacturing lines and it takes a year or more to develop that product, you better understand what it is and what it’s trying to do and specifically what it’s not going to do.”

He continued: “Customers have to spend money to buy those atoms. They want something that delivers value or you end up with a real disappointment and you can spoil the market.”

Not long after its prototype release, Google quietly closed its four physical stores set up to help Google Glass purchasers get to grips with the AR glasses following a serious decline in interest.

While its reputation was seriously dented by the release, Google is still working on a full commercial release for Google Glass, but in the meantime has started rolling out some models to industry, particularly in the medical sector for further fine-tuning.

Tony Fadell image via Web Summit/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic