Intel Pivots to Glass as Google’s Vision Remains Rose-Tinted
The news that Intel’s MICA smart band is based on ARM-like architecture from Infineon signals a shift in the chipmaker’s thinking on wearables, something that has only been further suggested by more recent reports that Intel’s processors will now live inside the next version of Google Glass. Whether these new chips will be the ones inside the next Glass, or a variant of the Edison SoC (system-on-chip) has yet to be confirmed.
Part of a far-reaching approach to provide an ecosystem for wearable devices, Intel’s SoCs would replace existing Texas Instruments chips in the current version of Glass. They also bring a more holistic perspective on smart glasses than Google was initially considering. While Glass was announced as a primarily consumer device in 2012, Intel has taken a much broader view, as evidenced by the Make it Wearable challenge. The finalists for the contest include smart pendants, modular smart watches, smart gloves for use in manufacturing and 3D-printed prosthetics.
The final winner was a wrist-mounted camera drone. Intel’s goal with wearables is to foster an ecosystem in which it can be an enabler and promoter of a variety of products to boost the segment as a whole. The joint marketing platform for the Basis Peak (which Intel owns) and the BioSport in-Ear Headphones (made in partnership with SMS Audio) make this position crystal clear. If you want technology in your garb, Intel will help you put it there.
The range of applications Intel is currently showcasing, some very far outside the existing wearables paradigm, gives the chipmaker the tools it needs to consider the best applications for the devices, without preconceived notions of what a wearable is. This is invaluable for Google Glass. In line with Juniper’s recent research on smart glasses, Intel appears to be pushing smart glasses towards enterprise applications. While this the most promising and potentially lucrative place for Google Glass to develop, the amount of energy Google [x] is putting into its most promising avenue of smart glasses development is disappointing – some sources suggest that only around 5% of Google’s employees working on Glass are enterprise-focused. This is totally asymmetrical to most Glass app developers, who have either postponed developments due to a lack of interest or repurposed their operations to fit an enterprise context.
In order for Glass to succeed, Google needs to pivot along with everyone else in the smart glasses business and develop the devices for where they will find a use, not pursue an idealised view of what the company thinks the product should be.