Is Tim Cook Wrong About Google Glass?


Apple CEO Tim Cook has certainly made it clear he doesn't mind criticizing the competition.

For example, back in February, he panned the OLED technology used by Samsung in the screens of its Galaxy series devices, while at the same time, offered Apple's own Retina Displays as a superior alternative. While I happened to find those comments particularly curious considering Apple had reportedly just hired an OLED expert of its own, that still didn't stop shares of OLED supplier Universal Display from falling as much as 7% that day.

Even so, it's hard to blame Cook for wanting to extol the virtues of his own company's strategy and products.

Shattering Google Glass
Now, Cook has trained his sights on the search behemoth Google .

More specifically, while discussing the future of wearable technology last week at the D11 Conference hosted by AllThingsD, Cook stated, in no uncertain terms, that he doesn't think many people will buy Google Glass.

Why not?

Though he admitted there were "some positive points in the product," here are three choice quotes he used to take jabs at Google Glass:

  • "I think it's probably more likely to appeal to certain vertical markets, and I think the likelihood it has broad-range appeal ... that's tough to see."

  • "There's nothing great out there that I've seen. There's nothing that's going to convince a kid who has never worn glasses, or a band, or a watch, or whatever to wear one ... or at least I haven't seen any."

  • "I wear glasses because I have to ... I don't know a lot of people that wear them that don't have to. They want them to be light and unobtrusive and reflect their fashion ... so I think from a mainstream point of view [glasses as wearable computing devices] are difficult to see. I think the wrist is interesting. The wrist is natural."

One reason he may be wrong
First, as the folks over at the Huffington Post so astutely pointed out, it's no coincidence that Google partnered with designer glasses start-up Warby Parker, best known for making trendy (and often bulky) "hipster glasses."

Even so, with or without incorporated lenses, Google's own pictures of the device make it hard to claim Google Glass is particularly gaudy:

Image source: Google

Better yet, if recent reports prove true which say Google has decided to use ultra-slim OLED displays from Samsung in the commercial version Glass, you can bet the final product will be even more streamlined by the time it's offered to the masses.

The bigger picture
However, while fashion could undoubtedly lead to a variety of interesting arguments for or against owning Google Glass, a larger question remains which could easily determine Google's success or failure: What level of invasiveness are people willing to accept in the first significant iteration of wearable computing?

To be sure, a computer worn near the eye is bound to be more closely tied into our everyday lives than a watch, but that's exactly what's making people nervous about Google Glass. After all, though many people are arguably too-often connected to their digital lives through smartphones at present, Google Glass takes those electronic interactions to an entirely new, more intimate level.

Worse yet, privacy concerns had surfaced even before the device was released to 2,000 beta testers last month, even as Google had added simple safeguards like a voice command requirement for taking pictures. Unsurprisingly, hackers quickly released an app -- appropriately dubbed Winky -- to enable users to simply wink to snap a photo.

As another example, if you have a habit of ducking away from awkward conversations before people see you, you might hate that a San Francisco-based tech start-up named Lambda Labs is set to release a Facial Recognition API for Google Glass in the very near future.

Foolish final thoughts
In the end, Tim Cook may be right in saying Google Glass isn't ready for commercial adoption on a wide scale, but it's not for the reasons he thinks.

On one hand, Apple may be better off if they enter the space by unveiling a smart watch of their own, but Cook will have his work cut out for him if he wants to convince consumers they absolutely cannot live without an Apple device strapped to their wrists. Google Glass, on the other hand, certainly boasts that "wow" factor, but Big G took such a huge leap forward with their tech that they might be scaring consumers away.

For what it's worth, this technology isn't exactly Google's first long-term oriented project to freak people out; it's safe to say the company's driver-less cars have attracted a fair amount of skepticism so far. In addition, chairman Eric Schmidt did say last month the commercial release of Glass is still "probably a year-ish" away, so they've got at least some time to iron out the details before their prime time debut.

But what do you think? Is the world ready to accept Google Glass? Share you thoughts in the comments section below.

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Fool contributor Steve Symington owns shares of Apple and Universal Display. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, and Universal Display. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Universal Display. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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