IHS: Expect 9.4 million 'smart' glasses units shipped by 2016

Are "smart" glasses the new wave of mobile? Based on the fervor around Google Glass, IHS analysts seem to think so.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

The pending launch of "smart" glasses as a new mobile category might not just be reserved for Google Glass.

See also: Google reconfirms 2013 release plans (or hopes) for Glass

IHS iSuppli just published a new report with a forecast of approximately 9.4 million units of these fancy spectacles shipping between 2012 to 2016.

That time frame might seem odd considering we really haven't seen much of this category on the market yet aside from the introduction of Glass at Google I/O last June combined with the recent first wave of prototypes headed to some developers now.

While acknowledging that this segment depends upon the success or failure of Google Glass, analysts seem to be counting on strong consumer interest anyway.

Theo Ahadome, a senior analyst at IHS, remarked in the report that the amount of apps (and therefore, use cases) supported by smart glasses that will be the make-or-break factor -- at least in the eyes of consumers.

In fact, the hardware is much less relevant to the growth of Google Glass than for any other personal communications device in recent history. This is because the utility of Google Glass is not readily apparent, so everything will depend on the appeal of the apps. This is why the smart glass market makes sense for a software-oriented organization like Google, despite the company’s limited previous success in developing hardware. Google is betting the house that developers will produce some compelling applications for Glass.

Ahadome continued, suggesting that some potential use cases could include "live updates for travel, location reviews and recommendations, nutritional information and matching personal preferences, and previous encounters to aid decision making.."

However, if Glass ends up just being a "wearable camera" as demonstrated during the I/O unveiling last year, then analysts would lower their forecast significantly to just one million units shipped over the course of four years.

But considering there have already been some demos of Glass-optimized apps for Gmail, The New York Times, Evernote, and more, it already looks like Google is well on its way to building a device that is more than just a pair of fancy specs with a camera attached.

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