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Now you see it, now you don’t. Google has closed its Google Glass Explorer program. There is now no way to buy the trend-setting wearable device. What’s going on?

It was going to be the Next Big Thing. Now the tech giant has withdrawn Google Glass from sale. It seems it is just not ready for prime time.

“It’s hard to believe that Glass started as little more than a scuba mask attached to a laptop,” says Google in an anonymously authored blog on its website. “We kept on it, and when it started to come together, we began the Glass Explorer Program as a kind of ‘open beta’ to hear what people had to say.”

Well, Google has listened. Its response is to shut down the Google Glass Explorer program and ask people to wait: “You’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready. (For now, no peeking.)”

Google has couched the announcement in positive terms, but on closer inspection it is hard to see it that way. There is now no way developers or other interested parties can get their hands on Google Glasses.

“Explorers, we asked you to be pioneers, and you took what we started and went further than we ever could have dreamed: from the large hadron collider at CERN, to the hospital operating table; the grass of your backyard to the courts of Wimbledon; in fire stations, recording studios, kitchens, mountain tops and more.

“Glass was in its infancy, and you took those very first steps and taught us how to walk. Well, we still have some work to do, but now we’re ready to put on our big kid shoes and learn how to run.

“Since we first met, interest in wearables has exploded and today it’s one of the most exciting areas in technology. Glass at Work has been growing and we’re seeing incredible developments with Glass in the workplace.

“As we look to the road ahead, we realise that we’ve outgrown the lab and so we’re officially ‘graduating’ from Google X to be our own team here at Google. We’re thrilled to be moving even more from concept to reality.

“As part of this transition, we’re closing the Explorer Program so we can focus on what’s coming next.”

In other words, we’re not sharing Google Glass development any more. Thanks to all you guinea pigs, but we’ve worked out we need to work a bit more on the idea first.

Google’s announcement is a masterpiece of one step forward, two steps back. Rarely has a new technology been so widely talked about. Users around the world – individuals and corporations – had invested in the technology and assumed full release was just around the corner.

Not so fast. You have to wait til we release the finished product, at some indeterminate time in the future, and you can’t play with it in the meantime.

Google says that the Glass development team will move out of the company’s Google X ‘moonshot’ development division and become an independent division within Google’s Nest Labs – which mainly focuses on home automation.

Despite all the fine words, it is hard to see this as anything other than a Great Leap Backwards for Google Glass. The device has garnered a truly amazing amount of publicity – or is it hype – not all of it positive, Rather than ride that wave on to greater things, Google is stopping to take what looks like being a very deep breath.

It does seem that Google Glass was losing momentum. New agency Reuters reported two months ago that developers were losing interest. Of 16 developers polled by Reuters, nine said they had stopped working on Glass based applications because of lack of interest from potential customers or limitations of the device itself.

Reuters reported that many senior Glass developers had left the company, and that a major venture capitalist firm looking to fund investment in Glass apps had stopped promoting the concept.

eBay is full of ads from ‘Explorers’ who want to sell their Google Glasses. Some are less than half Google’s US$1500 price. Maybe they will increase in value at some indeterminate time in the future as curios from a technological dead end.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

 

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