Google announced that it will stop selling Google Glass on Jan. 19. It will also end its Google Glass Explorer program, which had thousands of early enthusiasts pay $1,500 for the prototype version of the smart eyewear, on the same date.
However, Google will continue to make the much-spurned smart eyewear, and a key part of its strategy is to make Tony Fadell, founder of Nest and father of the iPod, in charge of the entire Google Glass team.
In a post on its Google+ page, Google Glass announced it is "graduating" from the secretive skunkworks lab Google X to become its own team at Google. The team will continue to be headed by Ivy Ross, former Gap vice president and jewelry designer, but she will report to Fadell, a not-so-surprising choice for Google.
"Glass was in its infancy, and you took those very first steps and taught us how to walk," said Google Glass. "Well, we still have some work to do, but now we're ready to put on our big kid shoes and learn how to run."
Being primarily a software company, Google likes to roll out beta versions of its products for public testing, in exchange for providing feedback to help Google improve the product. In 2004, Google successfully rolled out Gmail using this strategy. However, Google Glass is much harder to update than the code that runs Gmail.
Privacy advocates have also shunned its built-in camera that allowed Explorers, called "Glassholes" by some, to take pictures and videos discreetly. Restaurants and movie theaters have moved to ban the eyewear from their premises.
It's not just those who didn't wear Google Glass who had problems with it. Many early adopters just did not see much use for Google Glass, which was initially touted as an electronic travel companion that found its way to hospitals, fire stations, and other business venues. The problem wasn't just the device itself; there were too few app developers willing to invest in software to make Google Glass worth the hefty $1,500 investment.
This is where Fadell comes in. The Nest founder, who is responsible for turning the everyday thermostat into a sleek and cool device, previously said Google won't be meddling in Nest affairs. Nest would be free to do as it pleases with the comfort of Google's deep coffers.
Google bringing in Fadell for Google Glass is, however, a clear sign that he is now part of Google.
That should do some good for the Google Glass maker, as Fadell has a history of making revolutionary products that consumers want to buy. The iPod, for instance, was not the first music player, but it paved the way for Apple to become the wealthiest company on Earth. There was no knowing about the Nest thermostat before it arrived, but it got the entire thermostat and home appliance industry reimagining what it could offer to smart consumers.
"What problem are you trying to solve for the user?" said Fadell at Re/code's Code conference last year when asked to provide advice for hardware startups. "If they can articulate it, I tell them to make a software version of it, since you can put it on (an iPhone, Android device, et cetera). Stop looking at the shiny bits, go work on the problem space."
That, presumably, will be the question Fadell will answer about Google Glass.