The future of the wearable technology market still remains largely in question. Do we want heads-up displays on our faces? Smartwatches? Health monitors? The success of the Pebble smartwatch and early feedback on Google Glass seems to suggest that we're entering a new era of personal computing and that the industry, indeed, is about to explode. On Monday, Himax announced that Google plans to invest 6.3 percent in the company, which provides the lens for Google Glass, this quarter. What does that mean for the end consumer, though? For that answer and more, TechnoBuffalo reached out to Reticle Research principle analyst Ross Rubin.
"The investment represents a sign of Google's increasing interest in hardware and reaching deeper into the supply chain to ensure capability to produce enabling devices for its services," Rubin explained. "It has not gone into its own component production yet as Apple and Samsung have for chips, though. Regarding glass, in particular, it represents confidence that the market will be large enough so that Google will want to ensure adequate production capacity." In other words, Google can help make sure that supply meets demand by investing in Himax, giving it any extra cash that might be required to help meet deadlines. But will there be enough demand? That's still a major question, Rubin said.
"Of course, whether there is enough supply will depend on how popular future iterations are and that comes down to how low the price is and how unobtrusive Google can make the design," Rubin explained. Right now, the design is somewhat intrusive to the end user – you literally need to wear it on your face, and some users probably don't like that idea, especially if they wear glasses. The Google Glass Explorer Edition is also prohibitively expensive for most consumers. At $1,500 it's purely for tech enthusiasts.
Google Glass is important, even if the first iteration doesn't take off. "While Google Glass may not be the device that cracks the code for wearables, it ushers in an era where contextual information will increasingly be put proactively before us instead of our having to fish out smartphones and search for it," Rubin said. Google has the option to increase its holding in Himax Display Inc, a subsidiary of Himax Technologies, to more than 14 percent. Though we imagine it will sit back and see how customers react to the final version of Glass before it makes that jump.
The wearable technology industry is about to go through a boom, and while the jury is still out on whether or not the first new batch of products will be successful, Google is already placing big bets.