The genius of Google’s (almost) public Glass launch


File: The new Google Glass "Bold" prescription frames in "shale" color rests on a table at the Google Glass Basecamp space at Chelsea Market. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Google has officially opened up its Glass testing pool to the largest group of all: the general public.

That is, the members of the general public that have $1,500, a U.S. address, a good sense of timing and an interest in being part of Google's grand experiment. In a Google+ post, the firm announced that the online Glass store is now open to everyone, though the product is still considered an experiment.

"We’re still in the Explorer Program while we continue to improve our hardware and software, but starting today anyone in the US can buy the Glass Explorer Edition, as long as we have it on hand," the post said.

The step marks a huge test for the device, which Google has been testing with a slowly expanding pool of developers and public testers. Last month, Google allowed anyone to buy Glass for just one day, and said that demand was so much higher than it expected that it had to end the sale early.

Offering Glass for sale but still making it clear that the device is in beta is a smart way for Google to get information on what a broad consumer launch would look like.

Keeping the price tag high also limits the pool of potential buyers. At the very least, it ensures that the people who buy Glass really want it and know what they're getting into.

(For a look at my week with Google Glass, click here.)

When Google makes Glass available in retail outlets, the price is expected to come down. The tech giant is already fielding some pointed questions about Glass's pricetag, given some estimates of how much it costs to manufacture. Teardown.com recently estimated it costs $80 to produce one Glass, while IHS said earlier this week that its estimates the cost is $152.

While it's tempting to assume Google is price-gouging, it's both difficult to estimate how much parts cost and to get a handle on the research, development and other expenses that go into a project.

IHS acknowledged as much in its report. "As in any new product — especially a device that breaks new technological ground — the bill of materials cost of Glass represent only a portion of the actual value of the system,” said Andrew Rassweiler, senior director, cost benchmarking services for IHS.

In a statement, Google said that IHS's $152 figure is definitely low-balling its production costs.

"While we appreciate another attempt to estimate the cost of Glass, this latest one from IHS, like teardown.com's, is wildly off," the company said in a statement. "Glass costs significantly more to produce."

The company has not said when Glass will have a consumer launch.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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