Google Glasses: Proof That Google is Finally Out-Innovating Apple?


Google is pinning some big hopes on Glass to outgun Apple on the consumer electronics front of the war these two giants wage for the future. In response to Google's energetic hype and Apple's incremental plans over the next year or two, a herd of institutional investors are converting their tech holdings from Apple over to Google. It's still a long way off, but if the stampede continues, it might one day tip the balance between the two companies as a comparison of total market capitalization. That's a big "might," and incremental is not such a dirty word considering it's why we coughed up the dough to put Apple where it is today.

This will probably disqualify me from Google's Glass beta participation, but it seems you could easily produce the videos showcasing the technology by taping an iPhone to your face. Granted, you won't look cool, but you could simply ask Siri to say something witty that helps to ease your vanity, connect you to a highly-rated shrink who carefully listens to your overblown sense of self-esteem, or direct you to the nearest Walmart to pick up a roll of flesh-colored duct tape. Food-spotting will re-emerge as a favorite pastime when we no longer need to hold our phone, and can start shoveling it in two-handed as friends around the world watch in amazement, or horror, depending on our table manners.

To their credit, Google is offering real advancements by further reducing the physical footprint of the personal computer, utilizing the cloud, and simplifying the interface between customers and their content, or whatever they Google. Miniaturizing the hardware and applying expertise in internet-based business computing is how you beat Apple, and this is how Apple beat everybody else a few short years ago.

Apple didn't invent music, or even the digital music file, but they found a way to connect people with music in a way they love using a little gadget connected to the internet. Once the artists and lawyers agreed on the iTunes model, it has been all about incremental innovation for Apple, exceeding $400 billion in market value in about ten years. They added applications and another iTunes-like business to distribute them. Every few years we get slightly better graphics, more memory, easier interfaces, and faster processors. They made one a little bigger (iPad), and one you can talk on a little one (iPhone), which replaced Blackberry as our cultural status symbol and now provides the largest portion of the company's revenue.

Google now has Android phones and tablets as well as Google Play. Ignoring the low-end Android platforms, these are all better, at least incrementally, than the Apple counterparts they are targeting. Apple still has the edge on style and customer loyalty for now. Still, if Glass can achieve the goal of becoming the next status symbol in the developed world, Google will leap ahead of Apple on the platform front, and connect their clients to a broader customer base. The unsuspecting public discovered that Google is better than Apple at Maps, and they might discover Google is better at other things, too. The foresight at Google is apparent as they develop the self-driving car  it's perfect way out of a ticket for driving while talking on your Google Glass.

Forget for a moment that Apple leads the globe in total market value and towers over its tech rivals, and entertain the current perception that Apple is not innovating and complacent, about to be outdone by Google. It's a legitimate fear. Motorola learned a hard lesson in complacency after dominating the analog cell phone market it invented. Underestimating digital technology and focusing instead on making little analog phones even littler, it allowed Nokia and Ericsson to bring digital phones to market years ahead of them, taking away their customers until complacency caused these two neophytes to stumble in turn. Add Palm and Blackberry to the list of devices that held that top slot in our pockets and purses until the next best thing came along to replace them.

Investors seem to know about Google's new consumer electronics division. Those lean, mean, surviving remnants of Motorola know what complacency can do to companies in Apple's position as king of the hill. They suffered a bitter defeat, and are ready to regain their ground in this tech battle. By the 2014 holiday shopping season, Google's new gadget will arrive on the shelf. If Glass turns out to be even incrementally better, it's do or die for Apple.