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Major Takeaways:

  • Sony joins other competitors to Google Glass, including XOEye and Epson, with its SmartEyeglass platform
  • The company is betting that its smart glasses will be a hit with business, rather than the general public when it goes on sale in the US next month for $840 (roughly half the price Google charged for Glass)
    • Businesses could find smart glasses useful because the devices allow users to keep an eye on data while keeping their hands free to type or do other work – capabilities that could prove crucial in workplaces ranging from hospitals to engineering workshops, according to Ramon Llamas of International Data Corporation
  • Seen as a forward looking investment for Sony, but the devices also pose a risk for the money-losing company: Sony is expected to see a net loss this financial year – its sixth in seven years
    • The company is promising a boom in profit by 2018

From the US News article:

Sony’s SmartEyeglass goes on sale next month, but its appeal appears narrow for now.

Wearables are a growing consumer market, but Sony Corp. is betting big that its SmartEyeglasses will be a hit with businesses rather than the general public when they go on sale in the U.S. next month, only weeks after Google ended sales of its first-generation tech-connected eyewear.

Sony also will​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ sell the Internet-connected glasses in the U.K., Japan and Germany for $840 – roughly half the $1,500 Google charged before ending sales of its device Jan. 19. But Google Glass was never aimed directly at consumers and earned its largest following among application developers, which likely will form the most-interested market for the Sony “Developer Edition” device that goes on sale March 10.

“Sony will accelerate its efforts to promote the development of apps for SmartEyeglass, as it eyes the commercialization of the product for both consumers and enterprise customers in 2016,” Sony said in a press release.

Wearables are a forward-looking investment for Sony as Apple begins its foray into the evolving market with its Apple Watch, which goes on sale in April. But the devices also pose a risk for the money-losing company: Sony is expected to see a net loss this financial year – its sixth in seven years – though the company this week promised a boom in profit by 2018 through a strategy focused on camera sensors, PlayStation video games and entertainment.

The company also reportedly is considering abandoning its Xperia mobile phone division, in part because it sells camera sensors to Apple for iPhones.

Numerous companies aside from Google have designed smart eyewear, including Microsoft, XOEye and Epson, but wearables have not yet taken off as a “must-have” consumer device that’s more convenient than a smartphone or fashionable enough to warrant a routinely high price tag. Still, estimated worldwide sales of Google Glass units reportedly exceeded 800,000 last year.

Sony is wise to target businesses in their initial eyewear sales pitch, as numerous app developers are aiming ​​to design programs that could help people juggle work tasks more efficiently,​ says Ramon Llamas, a research manager with the mobile devices team at the International Data Corporation.

“There is opportunity that eyewear could be used as a solution for something, not just a novelty,” Llamas says.

Businesses could find smart glasses useful because the devices allow users to keep an eye on data while keeping their hands free to type or do other work, Llamas says – capabilities that could prove crucial in workplaces ranging from hospitals to engineering workshops. The development of virtual reality and holograms by companies like Oculus VR, which was purchased by Facebook last year for $2 billion, also holds particular promise for smart eyewear, Llamas says.

For example, “you could get virtual tech support with smart glasses, which could help people direct repairs of things remotely instead of making house calls,” Llamas explains.

Graphic showing the technical specifications of Sony SmartEyeglasses.

Sony’s new glasses also could alter the entertainment world​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ by giving people a new way to enjoy TV, music or film content owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, says Tuong Nguyen, a principal research analyst specializing in consumer technology at market research firm Gartner.

“Everyone is desperately looking at the next big hardware thing,” he says. “I think there are synergy opportunities between hardware and content.”

While wearables overall definitely are the next big thing, glasses have a ways to go to make up ground on their competitors in the sector. By 2016, smart watches will comprise about 40 percent of consumer wrist-worn devices, Gartner predicts. Companies also shipped 100,000 units of smart garments​ withelectronics built into them last year, and those shipments could spike to more than 10 million in 2015, Gartner reports.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether Sony will have better luck with smart eyewear than Google Glass, Nguyen says, explaining “the technology isn’t quite there yet to make it an everyday device.”