Somewhere back in the early days of the 21st century - call it a decade ago to be generous, but it was probably a bit more than that now - existed what were called smartphones. Of course, back in those days, what would pass for a smartphone wasn't quite the same as what it is today.
Yet they were still quite a deal more interesting than just a phone. There was no GPS. There were few apps, many of which were built by the people who had the phones and transferred directly and the idea of an app store wasn't even an idea. A few apps could be downloaded directly from Palm (remember the original Palm, not just the brand?). The iPod had barely been released. The first iPod, mind you!
Like early computer terminals, they were not even color at first - though that was rectified fairly quickly (certainly faster than it was in computer monitors).
I went through a few of these devices. Over the intervening years, I've had several and I have witnessed them grow into the phenomenon that they are today, which barely resembles those early models, at least in functionality. Yet I cannot help feel similar to Sergey Brin, thinking that maybe we should expect more. Even back then I was thinking that tapping on a piece of glass to make a call made me feel a bit ridiculous.
Yet after a decade, there has been little real change. The general form factor of the smartphone is not much different. The Samsung I300, released in 2001, was a color "candy bar" style, touch screen smart phone. It had an external antenna. It used the PalmOS. It had fewer apps and colors, no camera, and was a bit bulkier than today's phones.
Fast forward to 2003 and you get to the Treo which would add the camera. By 2006 you get significantly more memory. And in 2007, of course, you get the first iPhone. But ultimately, these are evolutionary changes - some may argue improvements, but really, you are still just tapping on that glass to make a call. There are other items on the list too, like adding even more memory (for more apps), GPS, more carriers and the like, but really - most people just want to play Angry Birds. Is this really improvement?
Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I agree that Mr. Brin is headed in the right direction either. I think it's cool, and I don't have the intelligence or resources to do it, but let's think it through.
You get a group of people together to go to dinner, each wearing their own Glass. Pair of Glasses. Glassi. iGlass. Whatever. First problem already.
Regardless, they decide to take a walk and discover that there isn't very good connectivity because they don't live in somewhere like Manhattan or San Francisco, or they do and they don't have the right carrier, so in the canyons created by all the tall buildings they get horrible reception. Right away the GPS doens't work very well and they can't communicate to one another through the built-in messaging system. Oh, wait, they could just turn and talk to each other - but when they do, it interferes with the voice-activation system.
Speaking of which, if you have a group all huddled together like that, all wanting to use their glasses at the same time, how will that work? Is each pair somehow linked to a specific user? Or will there be a code word? Just saying "ok, glass" can't work because if you are in close proximity to each other, you will suddenly activate every other pair. Even a person running by on the street could set them off.
And what about in a busy restaurant? Say you want to send a secret text to the person down the table? No way to do it with Glass, unless we're talking brain implant, a la Plughead, but I don't think anyone is down for that just yet. Just imagine a bunch of people all trying to take pictures of their food at the table, but they all keep setting off their cameras at the wrong time. Photobombs are nothing - Glassbombs are the newest hit.
This is all to say nothing of the battery life, camera quality and general wearability of the device. People who are used to glasses may not like the added weight. People who don't wear glasses may not like the comfort of them whatsoever. I like the idea, don't know about the execution. I think I'm going to go back to a dumb phone. It made life so much easier.
Update: Robert Scoble seems to think that Glass are a game-changer (depending on price). And he's probably right in many respects. Being able to take a picture that quickly is a great feature. Having your phone with you rather than needing to lug around a camera is great, but it still takes a while to get the shot. It's a big deal. But do you need to be that connected to all these other services? That remains to be seen.