Google Glass: It's not an enterprise product, get over it

The wearable computer has many benefits. The problem is none of those bear any relevance to enterprise customers, and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) may cause more problems than it's worth.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on
Image: Lori Grunin/CNET

As the niche, developing wearable computing market continues to spin, it will still be some time yet until consumers will embrace this new branch of technology. 

When Google Glass was announced in 2012, it was shown off in all kinds of leisure activities — from photo taking to video filming — and a range of personal activities that would bridge the gap between handheld devices and the real world. There was even the occasional skydive, suggesting anyone with Glass can go anywhere and do anything.

But Glass was not pitched to the enterprise or corporate world, and has yet to find its niche within the walls of business. And it likely won't — at least for the near future.

Google Glass is far from a refined product and has a way to go before it will have any meaningful impact in the consumer space. But while Google continues its public, paid-for and lengthy beta-testing process, it only has the consumer in mind.

It's an experiment that, like other services it has built on over time, could eventually be developed further to include business-minded types. But even then it would have to be, particularly at this early stage in development, a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) requirement rather than an IT budget spending all-out endeavor.

Yes, you can search things on the go. With developer support you could argue that it could boost e-commerce on the shop floor. Maybe it could act as a second or even third display for number crunching. All of these suggestions banded around ZDNet's New York bureau this afternoon seem rather weak, do they not?

There's no doubt that Google Glass could be big business for the search giant, but in turn how it reflects on other business remains at best minimal, and unlikely to dent any significant usage in the enterprise.

By creating apparently more problems than Glass actually solves, the primitive device has seen a significant amount of controversy and concern surrounding whether Glass could breach privacy, record people, invade people's personal space, and all the encompassing features that defines a "glasshole."

Developers: App makers hold the key to Glass' success. Its current bare-bones approach to search and access to its own product range circle isn't enough to bring in the business crowd — even if you're a Google Apps company. Until there's a hearty ecosystem that developers can plug into, there's little point in even taking on the platform. The ecosystem can only thrive with users. It's a one-way street, which becomes a symbiotic relationship.

There is a case that if enterprises fling open the doors to Glass and develop their own internal apps for the device, there's a case in point. But again, there are very few reasons why at this early stage in development 

Android: Glass supports Android, also iPhones. Android is creeping into cubicles across the land, but it's still void of any measurable enterprise-grade security. Some Android phones have been certified with FIPS 140-2 government-grade security thanks to the mobile manufacturers themselves — such as HTC — but that's no thanks to Google. Glass will have to reconsider its position on taking security less than seriously if it wants to make any meaningful impact in business, thanks to the Android factor.

(There is an argument that iPhones and iPads were not pitched to the enterprise either, but the business customer chose Apple after it began to bolster its security and functionality.)

Privacy: Government is a crucial enterprise player, at least in terms of security above other major business sectors, even finance. With varying levels of security clearance in the same office — some with higher access than others — the last thing you're going to want is documents floating around on camera that may or may not be currently filming away. Unless Google tackles this very basic privacy problem, Glass will remain a problem child in the workplace.

The 'stand out' (or lack of): Normally with any enterprise-based product, feature, or service, there's a pitch. Google isn't marketing Glass as an enterprise product, nor should it. There's very little in terms of value that the next-generation specs can actually offer ordinary workers. It doesn't boost productivity. It's a gimmick. Consumers love gimmicks because it's something they can choose to use a product or feature when they like.

For the enterprise, it's a core part of the workflow. Glass doesn't have one single feature or productivity factor that stands out and screams, "use me." If there were, we'd be harping on about it. For now, or at least until Google Glass 2.0 begins to embrace the worker population, there's little to offer in terms of 'stand out' quality.

Cost: Considering all of the above, the cost of the device alone is an enterprise turn-off, but also the very fact that the weak reasons that could be thrown in Glass' direction to justify even a small rollout across a corporate base. There may be some industries that may benefit from Glass, but if those benefits are limited to having something within your immediate eyesight rather than fetching your smartphone from out of your pocket, frankly you need to get less picky, more productive employees.

You don't need a million reasons to justify Glass. You just need one, and there don't appear to be any.


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