When Google co-founder Sergey Brin demoed Google Glass, the search giant's attempt to build a next-generation wearable computer, with skydivers live streaming their descent, it became very clear that Glass wasn't some side project -- it was Google's future.
Glass won't be available to consumers until 2014, but a select group of developers will have the chance to purchase the "Explorer" edition of Glass in early 2013.
Why is Google giving Glass to developers more than a year before its consumer debut? Simple: Google wants to turn Glass into the next major developer platform.
Many developer platforms have launched in the last five years, but two stand out for the impact they've created on the developer community and the world economy. The first was the launch of the Facebook Platform back in 2007, and the second was the release of the iPhone App Store in 2008.
The Facebook platform was the first of the major social app platforms. It made it possible for thousands of developers to reach millions of people with their apps, tools and games. It established social as a platform (it didn't take long for Bebo, MySpace and Friendster to launch their own platforms) and helped transform Facebook into the center of the social universe.
Steve Jobs initially opposed the idea of an iPhone App Store, but luckily he was convinced to open up the iPhone to third-party developers. It launched with just about 500 apps but has grown to 30 billion downloads, 650,000 apps and more than $5 billion doled out to developers. Without the iPhone app store, there would be no Path, Flipboard, Instagram, Socialcam or Foursquare.
Google was late to the app store game, and the tech giant has been playing catch-up ever since. But thanks to Glass, it has a new chance to create the developer platform of the future.
Developers are clearly excited by the potential of Glass, which received the biggest cheers at Google's I/O developer conference. But more than that, it's a new opportunity for developers to push the frontiers of personal computing and make lots of money in the process.
One of the first things people do when they get a new smartphone is download apps, and I suspect it will be the same with Glass. Who wouldn't want to install Instagram on Glass or try out a new augmented reality app for identifying great restaurants? New breeds of businesses can be built on top of Glass that simply aren't possible on iPhones or Nexuses. Glass also runs on Android, so the app store is already built in.
Consumer demand for Glass (or lack thereof) will eventually determine if Google's newest pet project will turn into the next great developer race. However, I haven't seen anything with this much interest from consumers and developers since the iPhone App Store. The upside is enormous, and its potential for market disruption is just as big.
My suspicion is that a lot of big businesses will be built on top of Glass, and that's a very good thing for Google future, as well as its bottom line.