Google Glass is the latest consumer electronics product from Google — though you can’t buy it just yet. More than hardware, Google makes a lot of money from selling advertising space. A lot of money. You’ll see ads when you look at search results, on websites that have partnered with the search giant, in Maps — all over the place. It’s not quite as bad as some originally thought — they never released a “free phone” paid for entirely with advertisements like some had predicted.
Google has kept the same model they introduced with smartphones on tablets, televisions, and other products running their mobile OS: light on ads, but present when relevant. That’s not the case when it comes to Google Glass. Before we get into Glass, let’s talk about applications in general, and the people that write them. All applications are written by developers. Developers write apps for may different reasons, let’s mention just a few.
Developers write apps to make money. They can do this by selling their apps to customers directly. They can sell space inside their apps to advertisers. They can sell customers a subscription to their content (like magazines and newspapers do). Sometimes the app helps sell a product or a service (your bank’s mobile app, for example). Other times the app itself is the advertisement. Sometimes a developer simply wants to sell you on his or her idea (a political quiz or an instructional manual).
Generally speaking, however, people don’t write apps for free.
The software development kit (SDK) to write apps for Google Glass — called Glassware — includes some information hidden away in the fine print: developers can’t display ads in their apps, nor can they charge for their software. This could be a game-changer.
App developers are going to have a hard time making money from software that they write for Google Glass. Developers can’t sell ads and they can’t sell the apps themselves. What’s left? Subscriptions? Companion apps?
We’ve seen various newspapers feeding information to Glass. Could content providers switch to a subscription model to enable their content to be deliverable to Glass? Perhaps authors will see apps for Glass as more of a “widget” than an app itself? If that’s the case, could a developer write Glassware that is free, but generic, unless the user has bought and paid for their full-blown Android version, in which case it could be customized to the user?
Why are Smartphones Different?
Google has said that Glass is about the experience, and ads get in the way. If that’s the case, why are smartphones any different? If it has more to do with screen size, why should smaller phones be “penalized” with ads compared to smartphones with screens approaching 5-inches?
Personally, I’m not opposed to relevant ads on my smartphone and tablet. I don’t think I’d be opposed to ads that are targeted to my preferences, time, and location coming through to my Google Glass — as long as I can opt out whenever I want, quickly and easily.
What about you?
Where do ads rank in your experience? Are they unwelcome on your phone? Do you think they’d be out of place on Google Glass?
How do you expect developers to make money if they can’t sell their Glassware or monetize it with ads?
Are you a developer? What’s your strategy when it comes to Google Glass?
Let us know what you think in the comments!