Tony Fadell, the Nest CEO who was Senior VP of Apple’s division from 2006 to 2008, says that Apple built prototypes of a similar device to Google Glass but “didn’t have time” to turn them into actual products.

Interviewed as part of Fast Company‘s Oral History of Apple Design series, Fadell said:

At Apple, we were always asking, What else can we revolutionize? We looked at video cameras and remote controls. The craziest thing we talked about was something like Google Glass. We said, “What if we make visors, so it’s like you’re sitting in a theater?” I built a bunch of those prototypes. But we had such success with the things we were already doing that we didn’t have time … 

From the description, the prototypes sound rather more like virtual reality headsets than Google Glass so there may be some exaggeration going on here. But it wouldn’t be a tremendous surprise to find that Apple has toyed with almost every tech idea under the sun: it has the resources needed to experiment at will.

The notion that Apple didn’t pursue the concept for lack of time seems rather more fanciful: it’s not like the company couldn’t have run out and hired a complete team for the project had it wished to do so.

Apple has always had a philosophy of doing a very small number of things extremely well. Back in 2011, iPod, iPhone and iOS product marketing head Greg Joswiak described “saying no” as one of Apple’s four keys to success.

It means saying no, not saying yes. We do very few things at Apple. We are $100bn in revenue with very few products. There are only so many grade A players. If you spread yourself out over too many things, none of them will be great.

Tim Cook said in May of this year that broad range appeal for Google Glass was “tough to see.”

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13 Responses to “Apple built Google Glass-like prototypes, says former Senior VP of iPod division”

  1. If they really had the prototypes of those glasses, i am sure it would have been leaked out & i am sure they would have announced it or show it off before Google did with their Google Glasses.

    I am starting to think Apple is losing their touch & minds & trying to have former reps make shit up. If this is true, all to them but why not spend the time & money to bring it out? I am so sure this would have sold…


    • I find it likely that they would have such a prototype.

      And the argument that ‘why not spend the time & money to bring it out?’
      From a prototype to a finished product there is a very long way, they might have gone 10% of the way just having a prototype.

      In addition we rarely see prototypes of products in early development, all the prototypes of the iPhone 5S/5C that we see now are probably all from trail production runs (or real production runs), and these can almost not even be considered a prototype.


    • Man did you even read the article? “We do very few things at Apple. We are $100bn in revenue with very few products. There are only so many grade A players. If you spread yourself out over too many things, none of them will be great.” And it makes complete sense, if it is not a compelling mass-market product, it’s not worth bringing to market which then obliges you to support it and iterate on it. They may well bring a similar product to market at some point, but they need to be sure about it. It’s also understandable that it didn’t leak as it was a small team working on it and it wasn’t in mass production which is where stuff leaks out through the supply chain


    • rogifan says:

      Appe has nothing to do with this. This is a series from Fast Company with zero cooperation from Apple. I’d take comments like this from Fadell with a grain of salt.


    • I don’t know if you noticed, but almost everything, that leaks out, are devices already approved and being in mass-production. There were and are hundres, thousends of prototypes in tech companies’ labs, which nobody form outside of the company will ever see.


    • I’m not quite sure Apple has lost their design edge quite yet. If you have ever have flipped through the AppleDesign book (, you’d see that Apple had a LOT of product prototypes that never made it to market. Some devices looked like early prototypes of some of the devices you see in the hands and homes of users today.

      Keep in mind that this book was printed just as Jobs returned to Apple in 1997. He had little to no influence on many of these products since many were conceived after his departure in 1985.


    • Not really. They had built iPad prototypes long before they came to market. They had to wait until technology could catch up to accomplish what they wanted, how they wanted it. Keep in mind, for every device, there are hundreds of physical mockups and variations produced and tested until they find what they like, and they don’t get leaked. The recent Apple/Samsung trials revealed a number of examples of this. Its not until they are mass produced in the supply chain that they start to see SOME leaks. Apple doesn’t tend to throw the first thing that works onto the market.


    • Lol. Since when did very rough, early testing grounds prototypes leak out from Apple? You are the delusional one Dimitri.


  2. ‘Didn’t have time’? What the h*ll does that even mean. Apple has time to do ANYTHING it wants to do. I can introduce a pop top can 10 years from now and call it innovative.


  3. “From the description, the prototypes sound rather more like virtual reality headsets than Google Glass …”

    Google Glass *is* a “virtual reality headset” and the concept of doing it the way they have with an overlay instead of blocking out reality altogether is hardly new at all. It’s just one way in which “virtual reality headsets” have been done.

    I understand the distinction you are trying to make, but the implication contained within, that the product research is somehow not similar and that “Google Glass” is an original idea, is incorrect. These are both devices in the same general category and both have been done many times before.


    • felrefordit says:

      Actually, Google Glass is NOT a virtual reality headset. At best, it’s an augmented reality (AR) headset, which is a completely different thing than a VR headset. VR is much simpler to implement, and consumer level VR headsets were around from the beginning of the 1990’s. So with a VR headset in 2007 Apple was more than a decade behind the competition, not years ahead it.


  4. Apple filed patents for their own wearable computer glasses and on July 3, 2012 Apple was granted a patent for a “head mounted display”. Apple later hired wearable Richard DeVaul. While at MIT, DeVaul helped to develop ‘Memory Glasses.’ DeVaul jumped ship in 2012