Google Glass, perhaps the most hyped and controversial piece of technology on contemporary consumers' radar, is to hit store shelves in a few months. And a newly disclosed deal between the search giant and budding hardware manufacturer and a much smaller company that specializes in small displays shows that the company is looking to produce the pioneering wearable-tech device as efficiently as possible.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google will purchase a 6.3 percent stake in Himax Displays Inc., a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Himax Technologies. The investment will allow the smaller company to increase capacity and enhance its capability to mass-produce liquid crystal on silicon ("LCOS") chips for the mass-produced version of Google Glass, as well as other products such as head-up displays and pico-projectors, according to a statement from the company.
Pending regulatory approval and meeting of closing terms, the deal
is expected to close in the third quarter of 2013.
Ramping Up Production
"Google is a pre-eminent global technology leader," said Jordan Wu, president and chief executive officer of Himax, in a statement. "We are delighted to receive this investment and to form a strategic partnership with Google. Beginning the second quarter of this year, we had already begun expanding capacity to meet demand for our LCOS product line. This investment from Google further validates our commitment to developing breakthrough technologies and state-of-the-art production facilities."
A Google spokesperson told us in an e-mail statement: "Himax Display has been a great partner for several years now. This investment is an extension of this partnership, which we hope will allow the team to continue to develop their operations."
Currently in the beta testing phase, Google Glass will allow hands-free interaction with a computer similar to a smartphone, responding to voice commands for searches and other functions. While tech fans see it as awesome, critics say it will further erode privacy and meld humans and machines into some kind of cybernetic sci-fi nightmare. Though it was slated for widespread release this year, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told the BBC in April that developers wanted more time with it, making an early 2014 launch more likely.
The Meat of the Deal
It's unclear how consumers will react, but the deal with Himax seems to show that Google wants to reduce the risk involved.
"It's designed to provide the funding needed to ramp up production and ensure quality," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"But it also casts light at the often uneasy balance between innovation and practicality in technology. Like hot dogs, people love to have their tech gadgets and toys in-hand without thinking much about the sausage-making required to put them there."
The Google-Himax deal, King told us, is "definitely in the sausage-making category but shouldn't be dismissed due to its simple practicality."
The deal gives Google the option to increase its stake in Himax later to 14.8 percent.