Google Glass won't officially be fit for public use until 2014 but that hasn't stopped one research firm from forecasting that the global market for such technology could reach 9.4 million units by 2016.
IHS believes that the buzz around Google Glass will be enough to boost demand not only for it, but for similar smart headset products to the point where the company is predicting shipments of 124,000 units before the end of this year, though they highlight that the majority of such devices would be going to developers who have been inspired by what they have seen and who want to create applications for the platform.
However, by 2014 -- when Google Glass makes its official public debut, sales could increase by 250 percent, and IHS believes that by 2016 yearly shipments could have hit 6.6 million units.
The most startling thing about the report is that IHS claims its slightly optimistic outlook might need to be recalibrated if consumers are put off by the price tag and a lack of engaging apps. The glasses shipping to developers at the moment cost $1500 and if the consumer version is priced similarly, IHS believes that sales might not be so brisk.
While the headsets are expensive, most discussion surrounding Google Glass has been based on two issues -- use (what are they for, and what can they do that a smartphone doesn't already do?) and privacy (the headsets have already been pre-emptively banned from a number of establishments and lawmakers in a number of countries have started discussions regarding safe and limited use of such technologies).
"The applications are far more critical than the hardware when it comes to the success of Google Glass," said Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at IHS. "In fact, the hardware is much less relevant to the growth of Google Glass than for any other personal communications device in recent history. This is because the utility of Google Glass is not readily apparent, so everything will depend on the appeal of the apps. This is why the smart glass market makes sense for a software-oriented organization like Google, despite the company's limited previous success in developing hardware. Google is betting the house that developers will produce some compelling applications for Glass."
If developers create augmented reality applications that help Glass rise above other smart devices, then the headset will be a resounding success. However, if the apps fail to help Google Glass stand out, IHS believs that it will still perform well in the market currently occupied by head-mounted video cameras such as the Go Pro Hero but that projected sales would be lower.
"The less frequently consumers interact with any personal communications device, the less valuable it becomes," noted Ahadome. "If smart glasses become devices that are used only occasionally, rather than all the time, they become less attractive and desirable to consumers."
In this scenario, the firm believes that while the headsets would still be popular, total sales would only hit 1 million by 2016.