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VC Fred Wilson: Google Glass is like Apple's Newton

Google's computerized eyewear is a harbinger of things to come, but the technology isn't ready for the mainstream yet, Union Square Ventures' Fred Wilson decides.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
Union Square Ventures' Fred Wilson speaking at LeWeb 2013.
Union Square Ventures' Fred Wilson speaking at LeWeb 2013. Stephen Shankland/CNET

PARIS -- Google Glass is like the Apple Newton, the influential but famously premature mobile organizer, according to the high-profile investor Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures.

Speaking at the LeWeb conference here on Tuesday, Wilson said he believes the technology eventually will catch on, but likely built more unobtrusively into regular glasses. For now, he indicated, it's too primitive and awkward.

Apple's Newton was a commercial failure, famous for its handwriting recognition failures. But it turned out to pave the way for a mobile era, first the personal digital assistants (PDAs) popularized by Palm and then the modern smartphone era. It even laid the groundwork for today's immensely successful ARM processor family from ARM Holdings.

Polling the tech conference's audience, Wilson judged that about 10 to 15 percent of people were ready to wear Google Glass walking around on the street. That was higher than he expected -- but still a pretty small minority, especially at a tech conference.

Google Glass is still in its very early stage, with only the Explorer edition available for $1,500 in the United States. It's raised the possibility of a new class of personal apps and expanded the possibilities of wearable computing, but it has also triggered privacy-invasion concerns.