As Google wrapped up its mammoth three-hour opening keynote to this year’s I/O developer conference there was one question which stood out more than most - what’s going on with Google Glass?
It was also a keynote which lacked any of Google’s infamous ‘moonshots’ and neither Larry Page nor Sergey Brin spoke at the event - a stark contrast to Page’s half-hour monologue on the same stage last year.
We can’t expect Google to make its ambisious moonshots year in, year out, but the lack of Google Glass news will surely be a concern to the thousands of developers who have stumped up $1,500 (or, as of last week, £1,000) to own Glass in its current prototype state.
Two years ago Google used I/O to announce Glass - with a team of skydivers leaping out of a plane above the keynote itself, landing on the roof and appearing on stage - all while live streaming footage from their Glasses.
But this year I/O was all about Android. Android on your wrist, Android in your car, Android on your phone and Android on your computer and television - but not on your head, projecting into your eyes.
Those thousands of developers have worked tirelessly to get their Glass apps ready for the big public launch, which Google says will take place with a new version of Glass launched later this year. But aside from two minor hardware tweaks (conventional frames and lenses and, mostly recently, a doubling of RAM to 2GB and expended battery life), Glass remains as it was two years ago.
It’s still a niche product, still one which attracts huge amounts of attention wherever it goes, and one that everyone wants to try - but not something anyone really wants to own.
Developers have come up with dozens of unique uses for Glass, from surgery and law enforcement to exercise and education, but those same developers are now looking elsewhere and to more conventional wearables.
They are broadening their horizons and looking to smartwatches, smartphones and fitness bands to take up the slack Google Glass has given them. Those who at first scrambled to be first on what would surely be a gravy train of Glass apps to match that of iOS and Android are losing faith.
Google’s mysterious barges moored up across America have been all but forgotten about. At first rumoured to serve as enormous floating showrooms to sell Glass, they have barely made a single news headline in 2014. News of Google partnering with Luxottica Group - maker of Oakley and Ray-Ban sunglasses - was the spark Glass needed earlier this year, but again all has gone quiet. Google itself admitted this wouldn’t result in Ray-Ban Glass any time soon, but the clock is surely ticking and time is running out for Glass to be the revolution we all thought it could have been.
Google has a history of public failure. Remember Google TV? And the Nexus Q? What about Wave, Reader and arguably Google+? Glass may well find itself on that list unless Google can finally launch an attractive, useful and affordable version before the end of 2014.
Two years ago Google’s glass was almost overflowing, but now it’s looking less than half full.
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