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Google Glass Production, Beta Release Ramping Up
Google Glass Production, Beta Release Ramping Up

By Barry Levine
October 29, 2013 9:56AM

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Existing Google Glass owners will be allowed by Google to extend purchase invitations to up to three other people. Google's Gmail was initially rolled out through similar private invitations, minus a $1,500 price tag. Such a viral friends-inviting-friends rollout before a full public release is not uncommon in the software world, but is rarely used by hardware makers.

There's going to be more Glass soon. Google is expanding production of its Glass interactive headgear and will begin viral distribution through existing owners.

On Tuesday, The Financial Times reported that the technology giant is increasing its production of the wearable tech by tens of thousands of units in the months before Christmas. To date, slightly more than 10,000 units in the first batch, dubbed the Explorer Edition, have sold to developers and fans who competed to purchase them at $1,500 each.

For the coming units, Google will allow existing owners to extend purchase invitations to up to three other people. The company's Gmail was initially rolled out through a similar phase of private invitations, minus the price tag. Such a viral friends-inviting-friends rollout before a full public release is not uncommon in the software world, but is rarely used by hardware makers. Google has not yet said if this next batch will similarly cost $1,500 each.

'One-Time Option'

In a posting on Google+, the company said Monday that each Explorer who owned the first generation of Glass would have a "one-time option to swap out their existing Glass for a new one." The new units will apparently be offered free of charge to existing owners, which the company said was a " 'thank you' for all the amazing feedback we've been getting." The offer is being made only to Explorers who bought their Glass before Oct. 28, and they'll have 60 days to take Google up on the exchange.

The posting said that a new generation of the hardware will "allow your Glass to work with future lines of shades and prescription frames," and a mono earbud will be included. The company also said that the invited three friends will be able to buy their units online, and have them shipped to "their home, treehouse or igloo."

The interactive Glass was first shown last year at the Google I/O developers conference, and units starting arriving to selected purchasers in 2013.

Samsung's 'Sport Glasses'

Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, told us that, while it's not clear to what extent the new units will have improvements, this latest move clearly indicates "an expansion" of the device. He noted that the public release is not expected before sometime next year, although the company obviously feels that there is enough interest to keep moving forward in this beta phase.

There is also the prospect of competitive pressure. Last week, for instance, The Wall Street Journal ran a story that Samsung had registered a patent in October in its home country of South Korea for "sports glasses."

That device, which is paired with a smartphone or other mobile device as is Google Glass, has integrated earphones for listening to music, informational alerts displayed over one of its two translucent or transparent eyepieces, and other features that resemble Google's creation.

Additionally, there have been reports that Apple, Microsoft and others have been hard at work developing their own interactive headgear.

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