Google has suspended sales of the test version of its smartglasses and reshuffled the group behind the project to put it under different management.
The action follows a troubled trial period during which the device, called Google Glass, has been widely criticised as a threat to privacy, with many early advocates in the tech world giving up wearing the product.
One person familiar with Google’s decision said, however, that the company was not backing away from the troubled project, but was pushing ahead with a second version.
“Going back to the drawing board is the right thing to do” because few owners still wear them, but it is “too premature” to declare Glass a failure, said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar Worldpanel. Glass was an ambitious early attempt at wearable technology, which “consumers still do not fully understand and are unwilling, for the most part, to spend a lot of money on”, she added.
The first version had been limited to a so-called “Explorer edition” that was intended as a trial and had achieved its goal of helping the company understand the technology better, the person close to Google said. However, the company had said at one stage that it planned to put the product on general sale before the end of last year.
Glass is a product of Google’s X laboratory, which was set up under co-founder Sergey Brin to make big bets on projects such as driverless cars. None of these has yet resulted in new products for Google, despite attracting great interest with their technology breakthroughs.
The Glass project will be taken out of the X lab and put under the control of Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive who runs Google’s Nest smarthome division.
Ms Milanesi added that putting Mr Fadell in charge suggested that Google would do more work on design, while also looking for ways to make Glass more useful by integrating the technology with other connected home and car products.
The decision marks a significant expansion of Mr Fadell’s responsibilities and throws him into a head-to-head contest with his former colleagues at Apple, whose Watch device, expected to go on sale soon, is the tech world’s other most closely followed experiment in the area.
It also represents a change in direction from the strategy that Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, had laid out. His earlier plan had been to give Mr Fadell considerable autonomy inside the company to build a big business around home automation, rather than giving him responsibility for other hardware initiatives.
Google also hinted at shifting the focus of Glass more towards business rather than consumer use. Much of the early interest from software developers has involved writing applications for workers who need access to information while their hands are busy with other things.
“Glass at Work has been growing and we’re seeing incredible developments with Glass in the workplace,” the company said in a statement announcing the change.
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