Google Glass: Not the Profitable Platform Developers Want?
Software developers love to hear about new platforms that might turn out to be their next golden business opportunity.
First there was Facebook. Then came the iPhone app store. Next up: Google Glass, the futuristic, augmented reality glasses that offer a layer of data on top of whatever you're looking at. Maybe they're only destined to be geek chic, but who wants to take the chance? Besides, there are a lot of geeks out there.
But hopes of making it rich off this latest platform were dashed this week with the news that developers won't be able to charge for apps or display paid ads, according to The Verge. And some additional poking around I did shows that any hopes of making money off consumer data is also out the door. Maybe Google is doing this only for the beta run of Glass, but if not, this could be a complete dead end for tech entrepreneurs looking to hitch themselves onto another popular platform.
Here are some of the relevant sections of the terms of service:
Section 2: Advertisements
No Ads. You may not serve or include any advertisements in your API Client.
Data Usage. You may not use user data 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. For the avoidance of doubt, user data from the API Client(s) may not be used for Third-Party Ad Serving ("3PAS").
Section 3: Fees
No Fees. You may not charge end users any fees or collect any payments in order to download or access your API Client, or in connection with virtual goods or functionality of your API Client.
So, no fee to download apps. No advertising as a way to support developer activity. No making money off of customer data either yourself or through third parties. No offering virtual goods or additional functions for pay. Google has boxed developers in, cutting off all the typical revenue routes.
The company did reply to The Verge, saying that the "API is still in a limited preview," and that while developers were "crucial to the future of Glass," it is too early to tell where the program will go. Maybe developers eventually will be able to make money off Glass apps, but they would have to invest time without knowing what the financial arrangements might be.
In addition, developers must agree to distribute their software only through Google, meaning that there is no way another company--Amazon comes to mind--could provide some sort of business opportunity to entrepreneurs. If that doesn't change, it will literally be Google's way or the highway.
ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.