Google Glass — the augmented reality glasses from Google (GOOG) — have enjoyed an extended period in the spotlight. One reason is that these high-tech glasses are tough to resist for anyone interested in the exploding market for wearables. Smartwatches like Samsung’s (SSNLF) Gear 2 and the long-awaited Apple (AAPL) iWatch have a cool factor, but pale in comparison to glasses that project a heads-up display on a lens so the wearer sees an overlay of information while packing a camera for recording point-of-view video.
The other reason for Glass’s high profile is that Google has kept the device exclusive during beta testing, releasing it to a limited number of “Explorers.” Now Google has announced anyone can buy Google Glass — for one day.
On April 15, the ranks of “Glassholes” will expand considerably. No need to tweet, write an essay or otherwise plead for the opportunity. All that’s needed is a U.S. address. Oh, and $1,500.
This one-day exemption to the current Google Glass closed Explorer program serves several purposes.
For one, it lets Google gauge the demand for the high tech glasses among the general public in the lead-up to eventually releasing them through retail channels. With a product as cutting edge as Google Glass, there’s considerable risk that tech-savvy early adopters with deep pockets are the only ones who will actually buy the things once they’re widely available.
Removing the current Explorer restrictions for a day and letting anyone buy Google Glass will also provide an indicator of whether the $1,500 price tag is too steep for the general public.
There have been repeated calls for Google to drop the price in order to spur mass adoption. Considering estimates for the cost of Google Glass components land under $250 and that Google has a long-established reputation for selling its smartphones and tablets near cost in order to spur Android adoption, it should have plenty of room to move on that $1,500 price.
However, the closest thing to a concession Google has made is to announce an agreement with Luxottica (LUX) to offer Google Glass with trendy prescription frames and sunglasses. That move, and keeping the Explorer edition Google Glass at $1,500 during the one-day public sale, makes it seem as though Google is testing the waters with shooting for Apple-like margins this time.
Google is also letting this current round of Explorers choose their own frame or shade — more valuable data for eventual retail versions.
So, what will the expansion of Google Glass mean?