Google Explorers Sailing Alone: Google Glass Sold Out, For Now
Google Glass, a wearable device that allows users to check email and text, get directions, and generally experience some of the features of a smartphone overlaid atop their perception of the "real" world," has sparked debate between fans and detractors alike. For a while, Google simply extended invitations to select users to test drive the new technology. Cultivating a solid core of early adopters is nothing new for Google—remember when you had to know someone who had Gmail to get Gmail? But this spring, Google put Glass on sale for anyone willing to cough up the cool price of $1500, and they sold out in a single day.
"Explorers" Today, Everyone Tomorrow?
What's interesting about Google Glass selling out is less the scarcity of the product, but the way it was presented. By characterizing the first people to purchase Glass as "Explorers," Google seems to be having its cake and eating it, too. Customers are opting in and paying not only for the new technology, but also for the sense of identification with the Glass lifestyle. A recent article in Forbes argues that the limited launch of Glass was less of a marketing ploy than a full scale "social experiment" gone wrong. Forbes contends that widespread use of Glass will only occur once a significant shift happens in the way we view privacy. Forbes asserts that Glass still seems too invasive to the majority of Americans, at least for now, but will Americans continue to feel this way once the next round is available for purchase?
As more Explorers make public their experiences with Google Glass, the next wave of potential purchasers will have a chance to see, via shared video and images, if this experience is something they can get behind. The experience of being visually identified as a Google Glass Explorer seems to be part of what Google is actually selling. Glass is distinct and unmistakable, more like something from a science fiction flick than anything else we've ever seen. But it was only a few years ago that cell phones became ubiquitous features of our social landscape, and it's become normal to ride a subway car or sit at a bar and see a line of people lit up by the glowing lights of their individual screens. Will the new digital normal be Google Glass?
The Explorer program seems to be moving this reality forward. By limiting their stock of Glass, Google has not only created some buzz around an exciting technology, but they've also given those on the fence some time to decide whether this wearable wireless device is something they might actually get comfortable with. It's a smart move to help maintain scarcity and promote both the luxury and excitement around Glass, while allowing our social culture to catch up to what may become an increasingly familiar sight.