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Google’s brilliant ploy to get people to pay for testing Google Glass

on Mar 29 in advertising, branding, business, geolocation, google, marketing, products, strategy, technology, trends posted by

Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin models the company’s new augmented reality device, Google Glass.As a technophile and early adopter, I am as excited as anyone else by the prospect of trying Google Glass, the new augmented reality device coming from Google in the coming months. Augmented reality apps have been around awhile. You point your smart phone at something and by mashing up geolocation and image recognition the app supplies additional information about what you are looking at.

Augmented reality is a powerful idea, and one that is taking root, most prominently with Google Glass. Google have been tremendously successful in generating hype about the product, which allows users to interact with their surroundings and the Internet with unprecedented ease and intimacy. But the new device is also a big gamble for the technology giant.

The system requires a seamless integration of hardware and software, and we don’t know yet if Google has it right, despite awesome promo videos and gigs of hype. Existing augmented reality apps are still buggy, and limited to large cities where the appropriate infrastructure can support an acceptable user experience.

The company has invested a great deal in their brainchild, and Google Glass is coming. It’s a bold and innovative move for a company that is mostly focused on software. Indeed, just as clever as the device is their testing and marketing strategy.

It seems to me that Google is applying a software testing model to their new hardware. Allow me to explain. When we buy a car or washing machine, or a smartphone for that matter, we expect all the pre-market testing to have been done. The glitches should be ironed out and we expect to receive a good product for our money. Companies invest hugely in testing products to ensure as few expensive recalls as possible.

However, with software, we have become conditioned to accept a post-market testing model. Users do much of the testing after a product is on the market and then happily report bugs, many of which could probably have been picked up in pre-release testing. With an operating system or app, we routinely and unquestioningly download the latest update, assuming it is a necessary and worthy improvement to something we have already paid for.

Google now seems to be bringing the software testing model to the Google Glass hardware. Here’s how they did it. With their initial announcement of its release, the company announced the Google Explorer program. Prospective users had to apply by posting a message on Google Plus or Twitter consisting of fifty words or less, accompanied by the hashtag #ifihadglass. If their application was accepted, the lucky applicant had to pay $1,500 to receive the device.

That is, Google has very cleverly found a way to build a cadre of testers and have them pay for the privilege privilege of being among the first among the public to use the gadget.

What is more, these users are early adopters, and most likely influencers, who are undoubtedly going to feel considerable loyalty to the company, to forgive initial problems, and to become evangelistic brand ambassadors. So Google neatly solved two problems — how to test the product in the market place while minimizing testing costs, and at the same time generate buzz among technology mavens and enthusiasts. Well played Google, well played.

But things did not go as smoothly as expected. Just a few days ago, the technology press was reporting that Google was retracting some invitations. According to reports, Google tweeted: “We’re gonna need to disqualify a few non-compliant #ifihadglass applications that snuck through.” Oops. The retractions certainly bolster the idea that Google is using buyers to pay for testing, rather than magnanimously sharing their new technology with the deserving few, as they would prefer us to believe.

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I am confident that it won't be perfect, but they have a shot for this to be truly disruptive. The huge issue with most computing is screen space, and this could solve that challenge.

    Comment by Harold Gardner — March 29, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

  2. Good point Harold. You are right, that this could be a huge disruption for the tech industry. I'd love to see Google pull it off!

    Comment by Roger — March 29, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

  3. It will be interesting to see both the positive impact as well as the negative consequences of Google Glass. I too would love to test them out and see how they work.

    Comment by Robert Rogers — March 29, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

  4. Yes, Robert. It seems to me to be practically impossible to anticipate what the positive and negative effects of Google Glass will be.

    Comment by Roger — March 30, 2013 @ 8:46 am

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