I've been a bit of a naysayer on Google Glass (OK, more than a bit), but the FCC just spilled the beans on a new model that might actually have potential, if primarily as an industrial product.

Pictures revealed today show a much more elegant, less geeky model that uses a large glass prism that creates a head-up display (HUD). The Google Glass display appears to hover in front of you like it is floating in the air.

My guess is that this prism, which will likely be powered by a more powerful Intel Atom processor, will project a display that's sharper, more colorful, and easier to use for industrial and business purposes. The prism folds back for easy transport. The design looks sleeker than the previous model, the Explorer Edition.

What interests me the most is that Google seems to be re-positioning the device, known as the Enterprise Edition, for industrial uses. There probably won't be a consumer version you use to get directions or shop for a sweater online with your voice or a swipe (or that you buy at an electronics store).

Instead, I'm expecting Google to make this version more like the Epson Moverio BT-200 Smart Glasses, a product meant specifically for commercial use. You might use the Enterprise Edition to see how a part fits into a piece of machinery or follow the instructions for setting up a 3D printer. Overlays might appear with the part hovering against a real background. It might even be waterproof. Form the pictures, it looks like there's a magnetic port that connects to a battery charger.

One reason this might be a commercial product is that the distribution channel might be totally different. A company like Ford might distribute Glass to employees pre-loaded with software for augmented reality to help them on the assembly line. Or maybe a Big Oil company will make them available for employee safety training.

What might surprise you about this change in strategy, if it's the one Google even ends up using, is that it might just work. As a consumer product, it was always a privacy concern. If you walk into a public setting wearing Glass and start recording a conversation or snap photos of colleagues, it's invasive. If you walk into the plant at Ford, where there's not an expectation of consumer privacy, it's helpful.

Contrary to what seemed like widespread interest, consumers just never warmed up to the idea. I always noticed a few people wearing the device at conferences, but it never went mainstream. Google was trying to make a device that became as prolific as a smartphone, but it makes you look like a cyborg. In the commercial sector, there are companies with deep pockets who might be willing to make sure every line worker has one. There's no longer the same stigma about privacy and perception.

An open architecture could also help. In case you didn't know, the main reason Android became so common on smartphones (about 6x the market share of the iPhone) is that Google seeded the OS to smartphone companies practically for free while Apple is the only company that makes iOS products. If major corporations and even small businesses can purchase hundreds of Enterprise Edition models for a few hundred dollars, and maybe pay a licensing fee to create a custom app, it could become a major success.

The question is, when will that happen? There's no timeline, but obviously the FCC released images that look fairly close to production. My guess? Sometime next year.

Published on: Dec 28, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.