Google Glass business chief reportedly leaving that role

Chris O'Neill, the man leading the push to get companies to use Google's controversial smart eyewear, is heading to another job at Google, says a report.

Richard Nieva
Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
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O'Neill led Google's push to get businesses to use Glass. James Martin/CNET

Looks like more changes are coming to Google Glass.

Chris O'Neill, head of business operations for Google X, the experimental division that developed Glass, is reportedly departing from that position, though he will be staying with Google, according to Recode.

As part of that role, O'Neill led the search giant's push to market its smart eyewear to businesses, as the product failed to gain traction with consumers.

"The team is heads down building the future of the product and we're not commenting on rumor or speculation," Google said in response to a request for comment on the report.

This month marks three years since Google unveiled Glass -- which superimposes digital images and graphics over what wearers already see with their own eyes -- at its I/O developer conference in 2012. The prototype device, which cost $1,500, has had a rocky time since Google first introduced it. Glass, with its built-in camera, became a lightning rod for controversy, as some people feared their privacy was being violated. Some bars, restaurants and movie theaters banned the device.

The personnel change is just the latest of management shifts to the Glass team. In January, Google paused the Glass project and discontinued its Explorer program, which Google had set up to get the product in the hands of early users. As part of that reorganization, the company put the project under the purview of Tony Fadell, an Apple alum and hardware guru known as the father of the iPod. Fadell joined Google in 2013 when the company bought his startup Nest, maker of a smart thermostat.

Before that, the team's original leader, Babak Parvis, left the company for Amazon. His role was taken by fashion veteran Ivy Ross, who held senior positions at retailers including Gap, Calvin Klein and Coach. She now reports to Fadell.

Though Google paused the Glass project to work on a redesigned device, the company kept its Glass at Work program -- which O'Neill led -- intact. The program connected Google with startup partners who aimed to get companies to use Glass in the workplace. Partners include Austin-based Pristine, which works with hospitals, and Louisville, Ky.-based Interapt, which developed apps for fast-food places like Taco Bell and KFC. The software teaches employees how to make those restaurants' entrees.

Going after consumers was a different challenge than going after companies. For example, a construction worker might not care if Glass looks nerdy.

"It's a little more straightforward," O'Neill told CNET in November, when asked about going after the enterprise. "I don't know if it's easier or harder."

It's unclear what O'Neill's departure means for the Glass at Work program.