The glass was cracked, not broken

Google Glass is back

Customer value

Advances in wearable computing are affecting both the consumer and business space. Where wearable computing used to be science fiction territory, devices are now reaching the mass market for consumption, with the Google Glass being the most high-profile example: a pair of glasses augmented with a small display and a tiny computer with wireless networking and GPS functionality. At its core, it is just a tiny mobile computer with novel display technologies and user interfaces. This might seem unimpressive, but what is impressive is that the Glass puts the display directly in the user’s field of view and creates a user interface based on voice, gestures and taps of the glasses’ frame. (Gray, 2013) 


The challenge with these wearable gadgets is to find a value proposition. Smart glasses need to add to the reasons people put glasses on their face. When the Glass was released, Google hoped that the early adopters would flesh out the value proposition, but the biggest challenge turned out to be the form factor of the Glass: many people do not enjoy wearing glasses. Given this behavioural observation, the value proposition to keep the Glass on your face had to be a good one. (Benbajarin, 2013)

Business model

The business model is an ecosystem platform and like all platforms, it uses an army of developers trying to create new value-adding apps. (Dashevsky & Hachman, 2014) Partners that built apps for the Glass ecosystem included Twitter, Facebook, CNN and Elle (Gaudin, 2013). Actually, Google did not really know what to do with the Glass, which is why they built a developer program first, attempting to use the wisdom of the crowd. (Shaughnessy, 2013)

Let’s have a look at the components. It all started with a product idea. The next step was validation. Through a crowdsourced competition, Google tried to find out what the Glass could be used for. The third step was rapid evaluation of the ideas. Next, the ecosystem was formed and developers were selected to line up in the ecosystem. The fifth step was financing and acquiring funds. The last component was the proposal of a tentative launch date of the Glass and improving, or iterating, the design with customer feedback.

Reflecting on this business model, it is obvious that Google’s own investments were relatively low, even after the invention phase was over. The developers were the ones bearing the costs. Therefore the main risk for Google was not a financial risk, but a reputational one: the risk of not getting the product right and having to close the project. (Shaughnessy, 2013)

Institutional environment

 Shortly after its launch, people began to fret about the social implications. Two questions dominated the debate: (1) Is the video component of the Glass a threat to our privacy? (2) Will people be able to concentrate on what is in front of them when they get distracted by the internet all the time?


The problem is that people cannot consent to filming or being filmed by the Glass. With the Glass, Google is able to compute what a user is seeing and the idea that you can become part of someone else’s data collection was quite alarming to many. (Arthur, 2013)

“With a phone, the person I am taking a picture of will notice me; with the Glass nobody knows whether or not they are being watched, no matter what they are doing.” (Arthur, 2013; Klepic, 2014)

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ISO) warned about the use of wearables and the resulting chances on breaches of the Data Protection Act. The Glass’ wide scope for data collection led to more chances for breaking UK law than any other device. (Fox-Brewster, 2014) Should movie theatres, concert venues and casinos try to ban the Glass? And how are corporations going to stop employees from photographing confidential trade documents? (Klepic, 2014) Banning or restricting the Glass was also a major issue for restaurants, hospitals, sports grounds and banks (Gray R. , 2013)


The second debate evolved around the question: Will people will able to concentrate on what is in front of them when they get distracted by the internet all the time? This legal question was about the safety of using the Glass in traffic. The Glass is supposed to stop people from looking at their phones, but people are fundamentally incapable of looking away from what they are doing for a few seconds without losing their concentration. If texting and calling while driving is illegal, how could constantly incoming notifications that are only an eye movement away be legal? (Klepic, 2014)

Why the glass broke

In January 2015 Google stopped selling the Glass, that was made available as an early prototype to fans and journalists in 2013. As described in the section “Business model” Google wanted to release the Glass to the public so customers could provide feedback that Google X could use to improve the design. (Colt, 2015) However, Glass Explorers treated it like a finished product, despite everyone at Google X knowing that the Glass was still a prototype with major functionality errors to be solved. (Bilton, 2015)

The section “Customer value” already described that it would be difficult to create customer value. Google advertised the Glass in terms of experience augmentation, while in reality, no one was comfortable with wearing the camera on their face in the way of normal social interaction. (Weidner, sd) The Glass failed to be  “cool”. Google desperately tried to make the Glass seem cool by putting it on models during Fashion Week, in fashion advertorials and in the hands of fashion influencers, eventually reinforcing that the Glass was not cool. This is a typical case of a post-modern marketing failure. (Haque, 2015)

The best explanation for why the Glass failed is that it entered the wrong market. The Glass could be a transformational tool for professionals, like truck drivers, train conductors, machine operators, police or airplane pilots. The problem is that Google did not target these professional and B2B audiences. Instead, they targeted journalists and celebrities. (Monetizing Innovation, 2016)

Raise the glass “The Glass is back”

Alphabet reintroduced the Glass to the world. It officially ended its initial ambition to make the Glass a consumer device, because of privacy concerns and because of the fact that the Glass simply looked unfashionable. Finally, the potential for use in business, as a tool for training, has been acknowledged. (Tsukayama, 2017) The Glass is now advertised as an enterprise focused device aimed at the healthcare, manufacturing and energy industry. Despite the first consumer preview being unsuccessful, it did reveal the potential of using the Glass in these specific institutional contexts. (Hern, 2015)


Arthur, C. (2013, March 6). Google Glass: is it a threat to our privacy? The Guardian:

Benbajarin, B. (2013, September 16). Wearable Gadgets: In Search of a Value Proposition. Time:

Bilton, N. (2015, February 4). Why Google Glass Broke. New York Times:

Colt, S. (2015, February 4). Google knew Glass ‘wasn’t even close to ready,’ but Sergey Brin pushed it out. Business Insider:

Dashevsky, E., & Hachman, M. (2014, April 15). 16 Cool Things You Can Do With Google Glass. PCMag:

Fox-Brewster, T. (2014, June 30). The Many Ways Google Glass Users Risk Breaking British Privacy Laws. Forbes | Security :

Gaudin, S. (2013, May 16). Google Glass ecosystem grows with Twitter, Facebook and CNN apps. Computerworld:–facebook-and-cnn-apps.html

Gray, P. (2013, May 14). The business value of Google Glass and wearable computing. Techrepublic:

Gray, R. (2013, December 4). The places where Google Glass is banned. The Telegraph:

Haque, U. (2015, January 30). Google Glass Failed Because It Just Wasn’t Cool. Harvard Business Review:

Hern, A. (2015, July 31). Google Glass is back! But now it’s for businesses? The Guardian:

Klepic, J. (2014, January 23). People Aren’t Seeing the Legal Problems Ahead With Google Glass. Huffington Post:

Monetizing Innovation. (2016, April 28). The reason Google Glass failed that no one is talking about. Monetizing innovation:

Shaughnessy, H. (2013, May 3). Google’s Innovative New Business Model For Google Glass. Forbes | Tech:

Tsukayama, H. (2017, July 18). Remember Google Glass? It’s back and ready for work. The Washington Post:

Weidner, J. (sd). How & Why Google Glass Failed. Investopedia:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s