Ouch. The BBC announced last week that there will be no paid apps and no advertising allowed in Google Glass. What does this actually mean for would-be developers and potential consumers? Is this a play by Google to lull purchasers into buying the much hyped, moderately expensive ($1500 USD for those ‘chosen’ to beta), somewhat silly looking, but oh so futuristic Goggles (WHY are they not calling them Goggles?!?) that encourage constant connectivity and create a world where people can withdraw yet another step back from live interaction?
We don’t have a pair to play with, unfortunately. We didn’t get off our lazy bums and play the #hashtag game or participate in any other method of acquiring a pair, so we can’t really complain that we’re going to be late to the party.
And what about the poor fellow who saw his as yet unpaid investment of $1500 parlay itself into $93,500 on Ebay before he had to pull the plug, lest the all knowing Google find out he was selling the glasses or loaning them to someone else and terminate the service (though he’d have had some consolation in not having made the payment yet) per their TOS? Can you imagine how the bidder would have reacted if the money had changed hands and the proud new owner had invested nearly 100 large in nothing more than some costume eyewear?
I like Glass as a concept. I’m still on the fence about the practicality, the real world effect, and all that other good stuff that remains a mystery until there are enough of them in circulation to produce some statistics. But then again, I was part of the cult of Blackberry until Q4 last year, and only switched to the S3 because I changed carriers (13 year relationship down the drain with my former carrier, that’s longer than most relationships!) so I’m not usually what you’d call an early adopter. There is already a sizable constituency of Glass Haters and reports of legislative restrictions (no driving while wearing them – even though they might make the best GPS ever) and other bans (restaurants, etc refusing to serve customers wearing a pair) before the general public ever tries the first pair on for size.
What I don’t like, is that in the same sort of way that last week I wrote about the Appstore’s walled garden, Google is creating a similar system with Glass, if things continue down the path they’re taking. It’s one thing to confine users to agreeing to TOS that make sense, such as you buy the product and only one device can use it. Or you can make a backup copy in case your house burns down and you don’t have the installation CD, but refusing to allow people to resell personal items is just stupid. Not allowing resale at scalped prices like it’s Game 7 of the World Series should be encouraged, at least initially; figuring out how to police that is more of an issue unless Google decided to manage their own resale marketplace (which is not out of the question).
When the courts allow tech companies to make rules that go far past the norm, and allow them to enforce the rules by terminating service to hardware purchases, we should all start to worry – what will be next? That stifles innovation (can’t root the glasses or you’ll be terminated), competition (can’t build a third party app for something or the user will be terminated if they install it), and analytics (same as competition) of these new devices and their potential uses.
It seems hard to believe that Google would follow in the AppStore’s footsteps and try to manage a ‘walled garden’ around Glass — that runs contrary to the premise behind Android and it’s coming dominance as an OS — but it is believable if compared more to the original Google search engine and the way it developed into Adwords and Maps and all the other products that Google directly controls and monetizes.
The real question is whether or not developers will bother with creating for Glass when they have no incentives to do so, other than as a vanity project. Perhaps the Goggles are being pulled over our eyes and the Google master plan involves taking out as much of the competition — Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, hardware manufacturers, software developers — as possible and they will hire the entire developer world to work for them instead of creating independently. Fanciful? Perhaps. I remember when Google wasn’t a noun, a verb or a capitalized word, but today their dominance in the marketplace is absolute.