In the early days of video recording, I plunked down $1,200 for a Sony Betamax – with a wired remote control, no less. A few years later, it was obsolete and the format dead.
A few years later, I lugged around a 23-pound Compaq Portable II before anyone had a computer you could carry. Now we all have portables and mobile is everything.
When it comes to technology, I’ve made some good calls and some not-so-good calls. Needless to say, I’ve had a much better track record since that Betamax fiasco.
Last week, Google (GOOG) put the beta version of its supercool Glass, on sale. But I wouldn’t buy it if I were you. Not today.
Don’t get me wrong. I think wearable tech is going to be an enormous category. And Smartphone-like features without having to look down and disengage is, without a doubt, our future. But it’s not our present. Here’s why:
There’s a new Glasshead in town. Google has reportedly hired retail veteran Ivy Ross to head Glass. Ross has had a distinguished career running marketing and product design for Gap, Old Navy, Mattel, Coach, and others. Mark my words: she will bring change to Glass. Big change. Wait for it.
The sequels will be way better than the original. The actual product is slated to ship later this year, and if the technology catches on, there will be new versions that will make the original obsolete in a heartbeat. The reason? It’s the first of its kind. And tech is not like movies and cars – the original is never good.
Third party developers will focus on the smartwatch. Granted, it would be cool to see stuff like a Terminator can, but you should at least wait to see what Google, Apple (AAPL) and others have coming in the watch category later this year. It’s a middle ground that will likely take off and, if it does, that’s where all the third-party app development will be.
It looks really dorky. So did pocket protectors, but they caught-on. OK, bad example. I guess if you’ve already got a Mike Tyson tattoo on your face or a mullet haircut, nobody will notice. Otherwise, everyone will notice, and not in a good way. They will instantly think “dork,” “geek,” “glasshole,” or “OMG, he could be looking at those half-naked pics of me on Facebook and I wouldn’t even know it.”
You will develop ADD. We already have the attention spans of hummingbirds. We can no longer focus on anything without feeling the tug to tweet, text, watch videos, whatever. Do you really need another gadget that will only make things worse? You will never want to take them off. It will be an even bigger effort to disconnect. You will become hopelessly addicted. You need Glass like Kim Kardashian needs backside.
It’s a prototype being marketed and sold as a product. Sure, it’s remarkably cool, but it’s still a beta program, and the only people that should be coughing up fifteen hundred bucks to be in a beta program are developers, reviewers, or serious geeks with no life or common sense. JK about that last one.
It’s a rip-off. The Beta version reportedly costs $150 or so to make. That’s a ridiculously hefty profit margin. Sure, there are always suckers – I mean early adapters – willing to pay the price to be first, but that doesn’t mean you should be one of them. Besides, component cost, size, and weight will come down while battery life will improve.
I already have expensive prescription glasses. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a pair of ridiculously expensive progressive lenses and a set of polarized, progressive, prescription sunglasses – both in designer frames. Ditching them is, at this point, not an option. If you don’t have to wear glasses, I think you’ll be surprised at what a pain they can be.
Privacy concerns. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I was totally with Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy when he said, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” That was 15 years ago. He was right then and he’s right now. But that won’t stop the inevitable privacy backlash that’s sure to come if Glass takes off. It might end up being banned in more places than not. You might want to wait this one out and see what happens.
Hold out for contact lenses. Why bother with those clunky, dorky-looking glasses when you can just wait for the contact lenses that Google is already working on, so I hear. Better still, skip a generation and hold out for attachable or even implantable tech. Then you can truly be bionic. It’s only a matter of time.
Looking at the bright side, you’ll be able to navigate without taking your eyes off the road, listen to music without headsets, and watch adult movies in the shower, as Robert Scoble could very well be doing here (creepy alert). Maybe not a killer app, but definitely different.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, executive coach, columnist, and former senior executive. He runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting where he advises executives and business leaders on anything and everything. Contact Tobak.