April 9, 2012
Project Glass & A Tablet of the Highest Quality

Some news and rumors out of Google last week.  First, Google released a promo video for Project Glass, their (previously top secret) augmented reality glasses.  The video shows map overlays, location based alerts, and deep Google+ integration.  Everyone seems to be using Google+, so it’s clear that this is a vision of the future.  Really, being a ‘vision’ seems to be the problem here.  Anyone can throw together a prototype video or a mockup for a groundbreaking product .  What matters is if these glasses will actually function as well as Google’s vision of them suggests.

It’s hard to tell if this is a technology that may become ubiquitous.  It’s a scary notion that we may one day have Google+ alerts in the corner of our eye at every moment of the day.  Is this something we want?  Won’t a phone alert be good enough?  I previously chided Google for continually racing to catch up rather than looking toward the future.  It’s good to see that they can still be forward thinkers, but we’re still a long way away from determining if their view is brilliant or crazy.  Reportedly, Robert Scoble caught Sergey Brin wearing the glasses in public but wasn’t allowed a look.  The Verge reports Brin saying, “right now you really just see it reboot.”  It’s not that much of a surprise.  Hopefully a year from now Google has something exciting to show for themselves - something remotely near to their video.

Also out last week were further rumors of a Google branded tablet.  There have been rumors for a while now, even suggesting it might launch soon, but The Verge reports that it’s been pushed to July for cost cutting efforts.  Google’s tablet is rumored to be the same seven inch form factor as the Kindle Fire, and it’s clear that the Fire is what Google is looking to compete with.  Amazon has essentially commandeered Android for themselves.  The Fire entirely hides its Android roots, and its OS is fully branded as Amazon.  It isn’t the finest tablet in the world, but at $200, it’s selling wildly and has a massive hold on the Android tablet market.

Eric Schmidt is quoted as saying that Google plans to release “a tablet of the highest quality,” within this time frame.  But with Google looking to keep the price low enough to compete with the Fire, this is going to be quite a feat.  At $200 you can only get so much performance.  No one is looking for this machine to be a powerhouse, but making the tablet run smoothly would be a nice feature.  It’s possible that Google will end up heavily subsidizing these tablets (that is, taking a nice big loss), so that they can make an impact in their favor.  Right now, they really need it.

Without doubt, Google would like to go after the iPad, but again, at $200 you’re dealing with an entirely different class of product.  For a while now there have been rumors that Apple is looking into making a seven(ish) inch iPad.  John Gruber of Daring Fireball has stated that he knows of prototypes of the machine inside of Apple.  This certainly doesn’t mean that it will come to market, and it’s likely that it wouldn’t make it for as low as $200.  It might cannibalize sales of Apple’s higher end iPad, but it’s clear that Apple doesn’t mind doing this if it means taking the market from their competition as well.  Unless Google’s tablet truly is “of the highest quality”, a cheaper iPad would likely hurt Google’s efforts.