I've been daydreaming about
) Glass since I first read about the project what seems like years
ago: a pair of glasses with a computer screen in them. My mind went
back to a show at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida,
T2 3-D: Battle Across Time
. In a pre-show video for the attraction, a faux advertisement for
the fictional Cyberdyne Systems (the company that unleashed
) featured a contact lens with a computer in it. In the video,
Shaquille O'Neal used the optic computer to help him nail a
three-point shot. The news of Google Glass stirred me just as that
video did when I was kid.
Consumers have been daydreaming about using the device to access
) on the go, or to translate foreign languages instantaneously and
discretely. (I'm sure there have been some more devious ideas as
well.) On the other side of the tech industry, developers have been
daydreaming about applications they will build, and about profits
they will take. Google made news last week when the Glass Explorer
Edition terms and conditions were leaked on the Internet: The
device, at least in its initial Explorer phase, will put limits on
both consumers and developers that will seriously alter the Glass
Consumers Are Limited
On February 20, 2013, Google opened its Glass Explorer Program,
stating that it was looking for "bold, creative individuals" who
would be the first users of the device before its mass market
launch. To apply, users had to post a message to Google+ or
Twitter, explaining in 50 words or less what they would do with the
device, using the hastag #ifihadglass. The program ended a week
later, and those lucky chosen few were given the option to buy
Glass, at the price of $1,500. For those who decided to drop the
cash, Glass will be arriving on their doorsteps shortly. With a few
You may not resell, loan, transfer, or give your devices to
any other person. If you resell, loan, transfer, or give your
device to any other person without Google's authorization, Google
reserves the right to deactivate the device, and neither you nor
the unauthorized person using the device will be entitled to any
refund, product support, or product warranty.
So, imagine you told Google you would document trends of
socioeconomic upheaval in New York City, but you really just wanted
to sell it on the Internet for profit. The minute you sell it, the
device will be forever and irreversibly (as far as we know) shut
down, and neither you nor the new owner of the device will be able
to get a refund.
How can a company limit a consumer's right to use a product in any
way once its been legitimately bought? As the device is a kind of
prototype, it is likely the measure is just precautionary, and that
the full market release of the device will not place such limits on
resale or loaning.
Moreover, it is not uncommon for tech companies to limit what are
commonly referred to as "sales," but are in some aspects, very long
As John Weber, the SEO Specialist at Geek Powered Studios told
Minyanville, "This question of limited use is nothing new, as
) has been quietly restricting digital music purchases for years.
In fact, when you 'purchase' a song from iTunes, you are not
actually buying a product, but rather a license to listen to that
Can the same be said for Glass? In the case of the Explorer Edition
devices, it seems that way. It remains to be seen if Google will
limit a consumer's full rights to device as it enters the
mainstream marketplace. If it does, the word "buy" should be
substituted for "rent" or something more accurate. Otherwise, there
could be legal dispute over the device and the companies
limitations on consumers. On March 19, 2013, the Supreme Court
decided the case of
Kirstsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
, issuing a decision that clarifies that "first sale" doctrine
protects the resale of a legitimately purchased good, even if it is
moved across national boundaries. The doctrine of first sale, part
of section 109(a) of copyright law, means that the owner of a
particular copy of a work may do whatever he or she wants with it
The question is, are users of the Glass Explorer Edition buying
their devices, or are they buying a license for their use, as
Google sees fit?
Developers Are Limited
Perhaps even more surprising are the limits that Google has put on
developers for the first wave of Google Glass: Developers will not
be allowed to advertise on the Glass' screen, nor will they be able
to charge any fee for their apps. Therefore, all the typical routes
for developer revenue have been cut, at least for now.
You may not use user date from your API Client for advertising
purposes. You may not sell or transmit any user data received from
your API Client(s) to a third-party ad network or service, data
broker, or other advertising or marketing provider.
On top of it all, developers must agree to distribute their
software exclusively through Google. This raises the question: How
will developers make money with the Google Glass platform, without
any download fees or advertisements? Perhaps Google will pay
developers directly for apps? Or the company may change its terms
in the future.
Another question is raised: Will Google employ (and/or eventually
sell) user data for advertising purposes, thereby guaranteeing
itself a Google Glass-gathered data advertising monopoly? The
company says it won't display ads on Glass itself, but in our
multiple-screen world, data from Glass devices around the world
could potentially inform mobile and desktop ads. As the current
terms spell out, third-party developers are strictly prohibited
from sharing or selling any information they gather from the
devices of Glass testers, but it's not clear what Google intends to
do with its data.
Will These Limits Be the Status Quo?
When you add the Internet, tech-savvy consumers, and huge companies
that release potentially industry-changing devices every few years,
you get speculation and rumors. These strict limits on consumers
and developers may well be just part of the Glass' first days of
public use, and will disappear when the device is openly and wildly
sold. If, however, this is not the case, a backlash is likely, but
will it change anything?
Perhaps most amazing is that, with current technology, we live in a
time when such a policy is possible, when Google can remotely
That this is possible is amazing enough, but that a company would
actually employ such a policy seems fit for a science fiction
product in its infancy before more lax rules are set in place for a
wide release. Still, such limitations on consumers, along with news
of, among other things,
illegal data collection in Germany
, make scrutiny of Google inevitable and necessary.
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