Snap, the company formerly known as Snapchat, is peddling sunglasses with a built-in video camera. Those Spectacles are certainly a sight to behold: big, flamboyant, colorful.
Whether you love them or hate them, you now apparently have someone to thank (or blame).
The person behind the upcoming according to Recode.is mobile veteran Steve Horowitz,
If you're going to make a jump into hardware, you could do a lot worse than Horowitz. He was one of the original software engineers behind Google's Android software and worked on the Mac at Apple, where he started his career. Perhaps most significant to his work on Spectacles was his time at Motorola, where he was a senior vice president of engineering and worked on the Moto 360 smartwatch.
Horowitz's expertise will be critical as Snap makes the leap to wearables. The social network, whose mobile app lets people post pictures and videos that disappear after a certain length of time, is wildly popular with young adults and teenagers. But it's tough to be a social network if your name is not Facebook, and Facebook has already made a habit out of cribbing Snap's most popular features (see: Instagram Stories). Wading into hardware is a way for the 5-year-old Los Angeles company to broaden its vision.
But the hardware business requires a completely different set of skills relating to design, logistics, retail distribution and more. Even tech giants such as Google have struggled to sell products directly to consumers and have stumbled with the customer service aspect of the sales process. Snap's biggest challenge will be to convince its legion of fans to fork over $130 for a pair of sunglasses fitted out with a wireless camera.
To lead the charge, CEO Evan Spiegel apparently looked to Horowitz. He joined Snap as vice president of engineering in 2015, but the company was mum about what exactly he'd be doing.
Snap did not reply to a request for a comment and an interview with Horowitz.
Horowitz has experience in entering new arenas. He was involved with the Moto 360 at a time when smartwatches were largely considered a pet project by the tech heavyweights. The Moto 360, one of the first watches to run on Google's Android Wear software, remains the most successful Android Wear product.
While other players like Samsung were selling square or boxy-looking watches, Motorola was the first to introduce a round timepiece that actually looked like, well, a watch. The company has also used premium materials like leather and stainless steel to further set its watches apart.
Snap will have to work to avoid the failure of that other smart headgear, Google Glass. That wearable ran into intense public scrutiny over its ability to shoot photos and videos in public places, and its techie look drew a lot of scorn.
Even back at the Moto 360 launch, Horowitz had a strong sense of how a wearable should work in the real world.
"The whole wearables space is about having to think about the environment first, that the device is going to live in, and the context in which you're going to use it," Horowitz said in an interview with SlashGear in 2014. "You can't think purely functional, that's really important."