Google Glass Explorer hype machine: will Apple iWatch do the same? They’re the ones who have the wearable computer hardware that no one else does. They’re the ones who can be invited to tech conferences and public events to show it off. They’re set to become the coolest geeks on the planet, if Google’s Explorer gambit pays off. With Apple rumored to be rolling out an iWatch wearable computer wristwatch, the question now becomes whether the iWatch will follow a similar hype machine type of rollout.
While Google has long used an invitation-only beta test system to roll out its new products such as Gmail and Google+, those followed the model of Google inviting select geeks who could then turn around and invite whoever they wanted for immediate access. That model allowed Gmail to quickly become the dominant email platform a decade ago, but didn’t work as well for Google Plus which has yet to become a part of the public zeitgeist. Instead of ditching the invite model for Glass, Google has decided to take it to the nth degree: those whom it invites into the program can’t invite anyone else, and will be the only ones to have Google Glasses for the bulk of 2013. The result could be that by the time Glass hits the open market near the end of the year, the hype has built up to such a level that public demand for the product is through the roof. Or it could backfire in that the public comes to view Glass as some type of geeks-only secret handshake which they either resent for being shut out of or choose to write off entirely.
Apple consistently follows a rollout which sees its new products like the iPad become available to everyone at once, so long as would-be early adopters are willing to stay up late to place a midnight preorder or stand in line at a retail store on launch day. The populist approach allows anyone to get in on the ground floor whether they’re prominent geeks or merely regular folks, and fits with Apple’s stated theme of making products aimed at the general population. But if Google’s Glass rollout manages to create the kind of positive buzz Google is hoping for, Apple could opt to follow a similar iWatch rollout. Apple rarely releases hardware products while they’re still in beta, preferring to wait until they’re finished. But if iWatch is still facing a long development cycle in terms of its integration with Apple’s smartphone and tablet devices, Apple could deviate and give finished iWatch hardware to select Apple geeks who want to provide feedback while the software is worked on. It would be similar to how Apple already quietly gives beta versions of its iOS system software to outside app developers so they can provide feedback while it’s being completed.
Much of that may depend on how well the Google China Glass Machine Explorer program is received. The geeks who have been selected for the program are likely to love the attention and to provide positive public feedback at every turn. But will that make the public hungry to get their own hands on it? If so Google, will have successfully created a new and more
ambitious model for a geeks-first product rollout.