Google Glass has taken a lot of criticism this week from people who think that it will go down as a piece of technology that sounds like a terrific idea but that never reaches mass appeal because it’s perceived as dorky, much like the Segway and Bluetooth headsets. I have to admit that I find this argument very compelling because it seems that Glass will, much like the justifiably loathed Bluetooth earpieces, make its users come across as anti-social cyborgs who are so caught up in their own little digital worlds that they won’t pay attention to what’s going on around them.
All that said, I think it’s terrific that Google is releasing Glass. Why? Because coming up with wild, imaginative ideas that may have no earthly chance of success is part of Google’s DNA and it would be a shame if it ever changed. Unlike rival Apple, which is extremely secretive and is more than willing to sit on products until it thinks that they’re practically guaranteed to succeed in the mass market, Google is very open about the things that it’s working on and will often release products without knowing if the market really wants them or not.
This means that Google has a much higher flop rate than Apple does — think the Nexus Q, Chromebooks and Google Buzz if you want examples — but that it also takes very big bets on potential market-changing technologies as Google Fiber, which could push incumbent ISPs to significantly up their games in terms of connection speeds, and Android, which has already helped spread the mobile web throughout the world by providing a free platform for manufacturers to churn out low-cost smartphones to emerging markets.
So my message to Google is this: Carry on and be your creative, innovative and sometimes unfashionably dorky selves. Because even if people end up laughing at you for producing Glass, they’ll still end up praising you for the next wild innovation you release that takes the mass market by storm.