Tony Fadell: I volunteered to save Google Glass
When Tony Fadell was put in charge of Google Glass earlier this year, we wrote that the father of the iPod had been “tasked with saving Google Glass from extinction.”
According to a new interview with the Nest co-founder, that’s not entirely accurate, though. Fadell says that rather than being saddled with the project by Google, he actively asked for it.
“It wasn’t handed to me and said, ‘Tony clean it up,'” he explained. “I offered. I remember what it was like when we did the iPod and the iPhone [at Apple]. I think this can be that important, but it’s going to take time to get it right.”
Given Fadell’s proven ability to turn seemingly goofy ideas such as smart thermostats into successful products, it’s understandable why Google would be happy for him to take over work on its head-up display. What we don’t know — and most likely never will — is what would have happened had he not spoken up in defense of the troubled wearable device.
In the interview, Fadell makes an interesting point about the difference between selling hardware and software — which may have been overlooked by a company like Google used to working with the latter rather than the former.
“If you are only doing services based on electrons, you can iterate quickly, test it, and modify it and get it right,” he said. “But when you are dealing with actual atoms – hardware – and you have to get manufacturing lines and it takes a year or more to develop that product, you better understand what it is and what it’s trying to do and specifically what it’s not going to do. Customers have to spend money to buy those atoms. They want something that delivers value or you end up with a real disappointment and you can spoil the market.”
This may help to explain why Google made the decision to withdraw the “Explorer edition” of Glass earlier this year, with Fadell working on new test versions in-house.
Finally, Fadell offers his thoughts on the Apple Watch, which in some ways is a rival product to Glass.
“I’ve had mine for about two weeks now,” he said. “I think they did a tremendous job on the hardware components of it. They are trying many different things with that platform – some are going to be great, and some are not.”
Fadell left Apple in November 2008.