In a post published on LinkedIn in March, blogger and entrepreneur Andrew Chen compared Glass to Newton. He characterized it as a visionary product that could succeed after several iterations, in the way the iPhone and iPad can be seen as improvements on the Newton.
What Chen didn't foresee is the breadth of public wariness and skepticism about Glass. Over the weekend, Saturday Night Live skewered Glass mercilessly in its Weekend Update sketch, expressing in parody what early mixed reviews of the device are saying in prose.
And dissing Glass isn't merely a pastime for late-night comedians. On Tuesday, the New York Times explored the nascent resistance to Glass. The Wall Street Journal has weighed in with an etiquette guide, which seems to be predicated on the notion that wearing Glass makes one forget civil behavior. Then there's the widely cited White Men Wearing Glass website, The Onion's take on Glass, and a Joy of Tech comic.
[ What's Google Glass really like? Read Google Glass: First Impressions. ]
There's even been critique of Glass for what it doesn't do, but presumably could: billboard ad blocking.
Google, as a major company, has no shortage of detractors, and bold bets invite punishments for hubris. When you build a Glass house, expect some stones.
Part of the issue is that the Internet lends itself to ridicule. Everyone's a critic. It's difficult to create anything new and it's simple to tear something down. Witness how Microsoft can be pilloried for a product it hasn't even attempted, its own version of Glass. But easy derision isn't easy to deal with.
Ridicule kills products, at least that's public perception. Here's what Computerworld writer David Haskin wrote about the demise of Apple's Newton in 2007: "So why did Newton flop? One reason was the ridicule heaped on it by talk show comedians and comic strips (most notably 'Doonesbury'), which focused on the supposed inaccuracy of the handwriting recognition. Also, Newton was expensive -- about $700 for the first model and as much as $1,000 for later, more advanced models. In addition, Newton was arguably ahead of its time."
Of course there was more to it than that, but disdain sways public opinion. Suddenly, the term "Glasshole" is rising in Google Trends. It spiked last year in a different context. Now it succinctly captures the way many see Glass wearers.
Google declined to comment. But the company has won big bets before. YouTube was once dismissed as a bad investment. Google+ was written off as a ghost town. Android for years was seen as something less than iOS. There have been failures, too, like Wave and the Nexus Q. But it's too early to tell how Glass will turn out.
If Glass does follow the trajectory of the Newton, that might not be as bad as it seems. Wearable computing is not a fad and Glass is an experiment; if Glass Explorer Edition never takes off, Google will do better the second time around. But first, Google will have to find a way to wipe the smears off Glass.