Intel gives Google Glass a needed boost

Move to supply chips for Glass counters reports Google is shelving its prototype wearable

Google Glass

Just weeks after speculation surfaced that Google was abandoning Glass, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Intel Corp. is going to supply chips for the wearable device.

If true, it's another sign of life for Google Glass.

"Presumably, Intel would not get involved if Glass was a dying product," said Scott Strawn, an analyst with IDC. "The really positive indication is if this comes along with an intention [by Intel] to invest and make new technologies that will solve a lot of the problems associated with Glass. That would be meaningful."

The Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that Texas Instruments Inc., which made the processor for the Glass prototype, is out and Intel is in. Intel plans to push Glass into vertical industries like healthcare networks and manufacturers.

Google did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Intel would only say, "We work closely with Google across a number of areas, but we are not commenting on speculation."

The report comes at a propitious time for Google, though, since it will quell talk of the company shelving Glass because of problems or lack of user interest.

Speculation heated up last month when Reuters reported that it had contacted 16 Glass developers and found only seven were still working on software for the wearable computer. The other nine had stopped working on their apps or ditched the project all together.

It didn't help that Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who is frequently seen out sporting a pair of Glass, showed up at an upscale event without the computerized eyeglasses.

The implication was that Google was giving up on Glass -- and the more than 10,000 early adopters who paid $1,500 for their wearable were out of luck.

At the time, Google pushed back, saying the company remains committed to pushing Glass forward, though there is no publicized launch date.

Analysts argued that while Google might be rethinking some Glass features or even tinkering with the form factor, it's unlikely Google was giving up on the project -- especially when it had just invested in Magic Leap Inc., an augmented reality company.

Gartner analyst Brian Blau said the company has found a strong partner with Intel, which is itself trying to work its way into the wearables market.

"I tend to believe that Google won't give up on Glass, but that a future version may not be the same or even similar to the product we know as Glass today," he told Computerworld. "Head-mounted displays and their accompanying platforms and software systems will eventually become commonplace and popular due to their capability to transform how information is consumed and communicated.

"So I believe it's just a matter of time before we see Google and other companies release products and platforms that outperform the technology we see in the marketplace today," Blau said.

Strawn also doubts Google is done with Glass, but said the company may be rethinking the project.

"It's just been a stepping back and a period of time trying to understand what they're learning from the experience," he added. "They might be stepping away from some of the more consumer-oriented applications. They might be focusing more on the enterprise. That kind of follows Google's business model -- you put something forth, get feedback and then make changes accordingly."

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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