Apple's Tim Cook is on target about Google Glass... for now

Apple's Tim Cook is on target about Google Glass... for now

Summary: Apple and Google are likely to have vastly different approaches to wearable computing. It's still early in the game, and today it's all about software developers first and mass market second.


Apple CEO Tim Cook spent a decent chunk of time on Tuesday talking about the future of wearable computing and outlining the key split between his company's development approach and Google's.

At the D11 conference, Cook said Google Glass isn't likely to be mass market, but could "appeal to certain markets." Wearables as a sector will be significant, and Cook cited the Nike FuelBand as an example of a product that already works well.

Cook added that most good wearable computing approaches today focus on doing one thing. That's a typical Apple approach — Cook has been down on the hybrid laptop/tablet strategy pushed by the Windows 8 ecosystem and so far has been right.

The wearable computing issue today looks like a novelty act, but over time will be big, and Cook said there are a lot of areas ripe for exploration with wearable computing. Indeed, we've caught word of a few enterprises already wondering how wearable computing will fit in with corporate bring your own device strategies. Nevertheless, some observers like Zack Whittaker swear Google Glass will never have a business use. 

Previously: Google Glass: Who is really watching whom? | Apple to be more open in future: Tim Cook | Google's Glass Developer Kit, video streaming on deck | I/O 2013: Google's location APIs likely to fuel Google Glass apps

I've been using Google Glass for a few weeks now off and on, but it's hit the point where it's mostly off. Here are my observations on Google Glass, and Apple and Google's likely approaches to wearable computing.

I don't like wearing glasses. Period. The problem with Google Glass is that when the novelty wears off, I'm still wearing glasses that are a pain in the temple. In addition, sometimes Google Glass can be an overheated annoyance — that navigation bar can run hot if shooting video, for example. Cook noted this glasses issue when he said, "I don't know a lot of people that wear them that don't have to." At Google I/O, Google Glass almost looked normal, but I was in a developer Petri dish. For someone as blind as a bat (that would be me), it was odd to see people willingly wearing bulky devices on their face for giggles. 

What will happen? Google Glass' future is likely to revolve around a licensing model for people who wear glasses. Some folks, but not many, will choose to wear glasses just for computing: think specific industry uses and techies looking to make a statement.

Glass lacks a killer app. Photos are the closest thing that Google Glass has to a killer app. I've had trouble navigating applications and bouncing around between Twitter, The New York Times, photos and other items. Cook pointed to single-use strategies with wearables, but Google is going for a multi-use approach and leaving a lot up to developers. The fact that Glass does a bit of everything can be jarring. For instance, I don't really want my text messages going to Glass, but they were there when my phone was paired with Bluetooth. I never found the option to turn the texts off.

What will happen? Glass isn't the vehicle for multi-purpose use, but it's way early. Glass is a proof of concept. Like the smartphone, though, there will be jack of all trades wearable devices.


Fashion will matter. The one thing Cook got was that fashion plays a role with wearable computing. The Apple CEO thinks that the wrist is interesting as a wearable computing target. The problem? Most younger consumers don't wear watches — or anything for that matter — on their wrists. The wrist is the flipside of Google's glasses conundrum. In many cases, Apple and Google will have to create something so game-changing that you're willing to wear it.

What will happen? I don't think the wrist or glasses approach quite works. Over time, I think computing will be embedded in multiple places such as clothes, shoes and the like.

The bottom line here is that wearable computing is a big deal and the applications are just getting started. For now, companies like Google and Apple will be happy to court developers for the front end: wearable computing is all about the software developers. On the back end, you're likely to see everyone from IBM to HP to SAP play along with the wearable computing theme, aligning business use cases and melding sensor data from the internet of things with people. Society will ultimately have to figure out when things get too creepy. 


Topics: Apple, Android, Google, iOS, Mobility, Software Development

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  • Wrong. It's all about Market first then developers will come.....

    Especially when the the main apps already exist and the main function is the O/S which allows the glasses to work. Do you think Google glass apps will be different than their mobile device counterparts????
    • Google Glass

      Not a fan of Cook but I agree with him. Google glass appears more like a lab project than a finished product. The only way they can look "Normal" is when a very good looking and smiling women wears them on every adds I've seen of them. The truth is that Geeks and Douche, mostly men in need of attention will wear them. I don't no long term viability in a device that makes you look like a CyberDouche. Regarding the apps, to me, they don't matter because it doesn't change the social impact of them. Maybe Disney should buy them to assist people on a guided tour... but that's pretty much it to me.
      • when you are stretching for "normal"

        I would go a step further and say they look creepy. Those of us on zdnet may know that there is a flashing led when recording video (we may also know that Google glass has already been jailbroken, so maybe there won't always be a flashing led, but that that leaves a great number of people that will either - not know what it is and think you are a trekky or have some awareness of what it is and thing you are creep and spying on people all the time.

        The tech geek side of me loves them, and would love it if I "had to" wear them for work or something. but I would not where them out of the house or out of that "accepted workspace" or anywhere where normal people could see me.

        people with bluetooth headsets look odd enough!

        can you imagine the wedgie a kid would get for wearing them to highschool...
        • but letting my inner tech geek speak for a second

          how good would all the info from your dashboard, your audio and your gps be, if it was just constantly in your field of vision. No need to take your eyes of the road to check your speedo, even when you are checking your blind spot to change lanes... that is assuming that the video from your blindspot wasn't also part of the info the Google Glass was giving you at any time...

          (if done well of course, if done poorly it would be like trying to drive while playing pinball and incredibly distracting and hence dangerous)
          • constant scan

            I keep seeing comments about how good it would be to have your vehicle speed displayed in these glasses. When I was taught to drive, many years ago, I was taught to constantly scan the road in front, rear veiw mirror, side mirrors and dash. The idea was that staring at the road ahead was only part of what you need to do to be a safe driver. It also helped with road fatigue where you just stare ahead and after a time zone out. You should never be suprised by a vehicle along side of you, following or gaining on you or something happening to your vehicle that the dash info would have shown, like and over heat or low oil pressure situation.
          • I think we may both be show our age

            But I completely agree with you
            If fact it is called “checking” your blind spot and “checking” your mirrors as you should already know/expect what you see in both those locations from regularly scanning all the “inputs”. I am regularly surprised by how thing like looking far down the road are taught as “advanced or defensive” driving techniques
            a) I don’t think either of us can deny that cars have basically become “necessary appliances” in the eyes of many (part of the is driving a right or a privilege “debate”
            b) As a society, we are trying to multitask while driving more and more. It used to be eating drive through meals and doing our make-up, but with the addition of mobile phones, then smartphones (checking messages or looking things up on your phone while driving need legitimately tough penalties), more options on car audio, in dash GPS, it is disturbing uncommon to see drivers doing many things with their attention other than driving, perhaps this could help bring the priority information back to the forefront of (some) drivers attention
            c) I still think that it would be cool… In response to “c)” I also think I would possibly find it intrusive, and would get bored of it quite quickly. But I still think “it would be cool”
          • Re: constant scan

            One of the great things I learned while my driving lessons was to distract from the road and the car as much as possible. That is, look at the green fields around, trees, that cute girl, building etc. This way you learn to "look" at the road and vehicles without fixation, which is essential to be able to drive longer time without trouble.

            The constant focus and attention and junk projected in your eyes is one of the primary objections I have against this Glass thing, even more than the privacy intrusion. I just expect the first studies on Glass impact on human health and sanity to appear soon.
          • eternal vigilance ... and distractions

            I could see this situation ... you are driving - you have driving info on your 'GGlass' or what not and bam! You get a pop-up ad or some nonsense from Google ... nice distractions or damaging distractions. Pop-ups are the bane of the intrawebz. Pop-ins, pop-ups, pop-outs, pop-backs ... awesome craptology there.

            I bet they put mobile flash on that puppy so the device runs hotter, slower and the batteries drain that much faster. The benefit would be epileptic inducing ads for your driving (or walking) pleasure!
            Bee Ryan
          • Imagine

            using google glass with google GOGGLES.
            recognise objects and translate written languages without holding a phone up to it.translating spoken words into your field of vision seems like a great idea for travelling in foreign countries.
            I'm down for this form factor.
          • Heads up display units

            Or you could just buy a car with a heads up display unit installed in the dash. They've been around since the late 1980's. (link below)

        • Do they make "clip-ons"

          For Googol glass? I've got clip-ons for everything, sunglasses, 3D glasses... Now I want googol glasses. Problem is I already wear huge thick black hornrimmed glasses. So are they gonna make googol glass Clip-ons? If they ever do, they got at least one instant customer.
          • Yes, they've already demoed...

            a version where users can use prescription lenses with Google Glass. And Google Glass already comes with tinted lenses as well so you can used them as sunglasses too.
          • ....

            Yup and I think they said the starting price for a pair of google glasses was what right around $1600 lol good luck with those glasses.
      • No s***

        Duh! I don't think we need Tim Cook and anyone else to tell us that.
        Dyson Lu
        • Some people ...

          Like every OTHER person at Google Inc need to be told...

          Though I do think this will have certain niche markets - IF it is done right. We may have to wait for Google Glass 4.2
          Bee Ryan
      • Why not something for the wrist?

        I know that the immersive aspect of Google Glasses is a primary goal, but I wonder if finding applications that would employ the wrist again might be the stepping stone to intelligent eye wear or for that matter a visual extension to the smart phone. For one, people with glasses already will look stupid with GG. Additionally, are there time periods when the GG will become a nuisance and the user will want them removed. It would seem that similar to a phone ear piece, hence the eyepiece for the standard smart phone. Only a small percentage of the population would want to be identified as the person that wear this weird GG thing all the time. However, "needing" to attach some gizmo to your head to do a particular job shows resourcefulness and productivity rather than eccentricity.
    • what you perceive with your eyes may become different from

      what you with your hands. And the UX for eyes would be vary vastly from hands for that matter and the current Android Apps, if I read you properly, wouldn't be suited for Glass. There may be some exceptions, but definitely I could say more than 99% of the apps are not suited for Glass.
      Ram U
    • Its a new form factor

      While it is not the first in this category, it tries to be as compact as it can be and makes the form factor practical.
      Google has the might to take it mainstream, Tim Cook can sit there and watch and criticise as the form factor becomes standard.
      Industry solution developers are already seeing the potential in this.General public will follow behind.
  • Wrong. It's all about Market first then developers will come.....

    Especially when the the main apps already exist and the main function is the O/S which allows the glasses to work. Do you think Google glass apps will be different than their mobile device counterparts????
  • Occupy Wall Street would love Glass

    OWS wanted to fly quadcopters above their rallies to film cops. Google Glass will be perfect and may cause them to rise again.
    Tim Jordan