Forbes has a report on Google Glass comparing it to Instagram and the new Facebook Camera app for iOS. The report argues that Glass will be standing in the way of Facebook’s maneuvering for a larger mobile presence.
These sorts of predictions might be a little hasty, for two reasons. First, Facebook has not yet been able to get a firm foothold in the mobile realm. Though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised investors a greater focus on mobile (and might deliver on that promise with a Facebook phone), the company still has a long way to go before mobile ads begin taking in the type of revenue Google is seeing from mobile.
Second, Google Glass is by no means a guaranteed hit. Though smartphones are beginning to proliferate into every corner of the U.S. market, wearable computers will take quite a while to catch on. Perhaps Apple could market a Glass-type device and make it seem “cool,” but I suspect Glass will be to mobile devices what early Android was to mobile OS’s: the more functional alternative for early-adopter techies. Plus, there is still a stigma hanging over wearable devices that was created by bluetooth earpieces early last decade.
There is a point to be made about the connection of Google Glass and social networks, though it was missed in the Forbes article. The first time a Googler allowed a non-Googler to wear one of the Glass headsets in public was last week, when Sergey Brin allowed a handful of photographers to don the device and walk through downtown San Francisco. This was no spur-of-the-moment decision. One of the few niche communities to embrace Google+ fully has been the photography community. The well-designed gallery views and Picasa integration are just two of the reasons photographers have adopted Google+ as their own.
By allowing professional photographers to preview the device, Google is signaling that Project Glass is not simply a mobile device, but also as a social device. Photos are a key part of modern human social interaction, and Glass will provide a way for users to share their first-hand experiences, to allow others to see things from their perspective. Facebook wants users to fill their Timelines with a record of their life. However, if all of those experiences are filtered through the view of a Google product, will Facebook ever be able to get ahead?