ANDROID IS SLOPPY BECAUSE GOOGLE LICENSES THE SOFTWARE FOR ANYONE TO USE. BUT OPENING PROJECT GLASS’S HARDWARE TO EVERY FASHION DESIGNER IN THE WORLD COULD HAVE A VERY DIFFERENT RESULT.
When you buy an Android phone, it means very little. The phone could be made by anyone. The case could be bulky, thin, sturdy, or clunky. The screen could be one of the sharpest or blurriest on the market. And worse still, the software itself could be skinned to something unintelligible. Android is a fragmented mess.
Google has handed over the keys to their flagship mobile product to a bunch of companies who are often brilliant at engineering but rarely all that tasteful when it comes to design. So despite having every company but Apple making Google phones, Apple is still, somehow, making the most beautiful hardware. An iPhone might not have 4G like some Android phones on the market, but Apple has style and that counts for a lot.
While Apple’s closed system offers covetable design, Google’s open line of phones only gets larger and more confusing. Google is ostensibly selling every phone in the world but the best one. But Project Glass could be very different. It could be the time where, like the early days of Windows PCs, open hardware again becomes a huge advantage. Why? Because Project Glass isn’t a gadget that’s tucked away in your pocket. It’s a fashion accessory that sits on your face. Fashion has its trends, sure, but ultimately, fashion is an expression of individual taste that’s fueled by an uncountable amount of options.
Right now, most of us are cringing at Google’s proposed Geordi-friendly geekwear. But imagine a scenario where Google offered Project Glass as a small hardware kit that any company in the world could use to make Google Glasses. (Somewhat like Microsoft, Google could close the software and open the hardware--or at least parts of the hardware.)
While the typical electronics manufacturers would still produce Google Glasses, it could bring in a new wave of designer manufacturers, too. Instead of HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, we could buy Google products designed by Ray-Ban, Fendi, and Gucci. Then, even retail stores like Target, who spend big bucks to subsidize designer labels for the masses, could get behind the technological platform to create whole new lines of the product. Every corner of the market is covered--from the techies to the moms to those who can actually afford high fashion.
The result could be a refreshed paradigm for gadgets. A world once dominated by engineering decisions could be dictated by artistic tastes. Construction wouldn’t just be through milled aluminum or new composite plastics, but wood, textile, fur--any whim of the fashion industry.
And a company like Apple, who could conceivably release a competing product, would be in a much different position. Right now, Apple is the electronics design equivalent to Michael Phelps racing a bunch of children around the kiddie pool. But with every desirable fashion brand in the world behind Project Glass, Apple wouldn’t have nearly this margin on style. They’d finally have some decent competition, all arising from the smallest boutiques to the largest retail stores.
With Apple’s closed approach, their products would resemble a uniform at worst and a single label at best. And Google? They’d run the entire fashion industry.
COMMENTARY: In a blog post dated April 5, 2012, I reported on the four things that Google needed to do in order to succeed with its new augmented reality headsup display (HUD) glasses. I also said,
"Yes, design is important. Yes, its important to do a beta test and get customer feedback, but Steve Jobs said it better with his secrets to innovation, 'Say no to a thousand things,' 'Make a dent in the universe,' and 'Design insanely great products that people will lust for.'"
I never mentioned licensing Google's AR HUD glasses technology, but it is beginning to make sense to me. Google is a great developer of technology, but they are not known for their design and distribution. When they launched their Nexus smartphone, the design was there, but the distribution was a total disaster, and the new phone failed to make it in the marketplace.
Turning the design of the new glasses over to real world designers who are known for their skill in designing fashion will be hugely important. Well known designers like Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Prada could have fun designing Google's new glasses. Having a well known designer name, instead of just Google, will give the new glasses instant creditability.
Consumers may not know if they need a pair of Google's new glasses yet, but design above everything else will play a huge role in convincing them they have to get a pair. The design of the new glasses will have to be truly earth shaking and make a fashion statement.
Courtesy of an article dated April 15, 2012 appearing in Fast Company Design