Google Glass Is Alive and Well in the Enterprise

Google's recent decision to end its Glass Explorer Program resulted in an array of media reports regarding the controversial wearable's demise, but the companies building software and services for Glass say the future of smartglasses in the enterprise has never been brighter.

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Business as Usual for Glass Partners … With One Notable Change

All of the Glass at Work partners interviewed for this story say that Google's organizational shifts and its decision to kill the Explorer Program do not change their corporate strategies or plans for 2015.

"Google called us beforehand to let us know this announcement was coming, and they said very explicitly that they are still supporting enterprises, they're still supporting Glass at Work partners," says Pristine's Samani. "We have unlimited access to [Glass] hardware, we're not on some sort of ration. Nothing has changed in our strategy." 

[Related: Touring Boston Through Google Glass]

"[W]e are still actively marketing and developing Glass-based solutions, and Google has not stopped support or sales to enterprise customers, only one-off orders to individual consumers," says Brian Ballard, CEO of APX Labs, a Glass partner that makes smartglass software that connects to legacy corporate systems. "Glass continues to be one of the best-in-class hardware products that we support and our customers continue to use." 

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The Glass Certified Partners received some advance notice of the decision to close the Explorer Program, though none more than a few days. All also received assurances from Google that they'll be able to purchase as many Glass units as they need, for the foreseeable future, and that customer support will still be available. Most of them also agree that the writing had been on the wall for the Explorer Program, with constant changes to the initiative and Google's decision last fall to close its four U.S. Glass "basecamps," or small retail spaces used for sales and demonstrations.

"It wasn't a lot of advance [notice], but it was enough to inform our customers, our prospects, our board and all of the other stakeholders," Samani says.

"We've seen this coming for a while now. This was not some sudden thing," Shakil says, though he also wishes Google gave Augmedix an earlier heads-up. "Honestly, I could have used a little bit more [notice], but Google operates like Google, you know? They're not like Apple. That's the way they work."

The only significant change in many of these partners' strategies comes in the form of damage control.

Pristine's Samani says he received countless email messages following Google's announcement last month. "Two hundred people emailed, saying 'Oh, Kyle, is your business dead now?' That's unfortunately the biggest challenge we face today," Samani says. "The misinformation harms us and harms the other partners in the Glass at Work ecosystem, it harms Google. Everyone loses."

"The only change in my life, in our company's life is we have to go out and answer a lot of questions now," Shakil says. "All kinds of customers, all kinds of folks in the press are asking questions. We have to answer them. That's the change really."

"We have to tell the truth to prospective customers, who hear 'Glass is dead,'" GuidiGO's Lerman says. "We have to change the narrative."

The Next Generation of Google Glass 

When Google announced the end of its Explorer Program closure, it said in no uncertain terms that it is building a next-generation Glass:

"We're continuing to build for the future, and you'll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready. (For now, no peeking.)"

Google's Glass Certified Partners aren't sharing details either, but they did drop some interesting teasers.

"[W]e know that there will be a new device, coming likely with Intel processors," Witt says. "There will be new devices, and [Google] will also have industry and the enterprise in focus when bringing out those new devices. I can't talk about the details, but we know a little bit more about the device and what it will be, what capabilities it will have. It's quite promising."

[Related: Google Glass Holds Promise but Requires a 'Reset' ]

"I've seen, without naming manufacturers, next-generation hardware offerings that I'm really, really, really excited about," Shakil says. 

GuidiGO's Lerman expects the new version of Glass to be released sooner than later. "We have strong reason to believe [a next generation version of] Glass will be launched in the near future," Lerman says.

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