Google Glass holds promise but requires a 'reset'

Google CFO Patrick Pichette offered candid comments on why the company halted sales of its electronic eyewear

Google Glass failed to meet goals set by the search giant, causing the company to halt the program and rethink its strategy for the wearable device.

That candid assessment was made by Google CFO, Patrick Pichette, during the company's 2014 fourth-quarter earnings call.

All projects must reach predetermined goals in order for Google to provide additional capital, he said. Projects that fail to meet those marks but have the potential for success, like Glass, are suspended and reworked.

"When the teams aren't able to hit hurdles, but we think there [is] still a lot of promise, we might ask them to take a pause and take the time to reset their strategies, as we recently did in the case of Glass," said Pichette.

Pichette's frank comments shed light on Google's decision earlier this month to end consumer sales of Glass. At that time, Google said that the electronic eyewear was "graduating" from Google X, the company's research lab that handles secretive projects, and becoming a stand-alone product division.

Google Glass, a voice-controlled computer placed in eyeglass frames, was aimed at consumers but it never caught on. People ridiculed Glass' clunky look and $US1500 price, and questioned when they would use the device. Glass' ability to secretly record audio and images sparked privacy concerns, with some movie theaters going as far as banning the device.

Pichette said that Google has no qualms about killing projects that fail to deliver the desired results.

"In those situations [where] our project doesn't have the impact we had hoped for, we do take the tough calls. We make the decision to cancel them and you've seen us do this time and time again," he said.

For now, Google Glass isn't destined for the product graveyard, which includes Google Health, an online repository for people to store health information; Google Reader, the company's RSS reader; and social networking site Orkut.

New versions of Glass are being worked on, Google said when it announced the end of consumer sales. The company also gave Tony Fadell, who runs Nest Labs, the smart-home device company Google bought last year, a management role in Glass' development. The head of the division overseeing Glass will report to him.

Some businesses took to Glass. For example, emergency room doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston use Glass to access patient medical records. The next version of Google Glass will reportedly be geared to enterprise use, though Pichette did not detail product plans.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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