Google (GOOG) really knows how to drum up buzz ahead of a launch. For the second time in a month, the company is expanding its Explorer Program for still-in-beta Glass, allowing anyone in the U.S. to purchase the device for $1,500 ahead of its full.
Google was sure to note, however, that Glass is still in beta mode as it sorts out kinks and perfects the device's hardware and software.
IHS senior director Andrew Rassweiler says the Google Glass of today still feels "like a prototype," but that chip makers are expected to offer more integrated chipsets that will "greatly improve" the device's performance, processing, weight and size once it is mass marketed later this year.
"The design employs many off-the-shelf components that could be further optimized," he said. "Future product revisions are sure to make strides in all of these areas."
Google, which until recently has been very selective about the Explorers Program, uses feedback from early adopters to improve the device.
It has been expanding the program in recent weeks ahead of the full rollout later this year, a sign that the company is growing more confident in the finished product.
Widening the program also allows Google to get buzz surrounding the launch swirling - a PR move that has generated significant press and encouraged some consumers with extra cash to order the intelligent glasses ahead of the mass market.
In October, it launched an official waitlist for the program. In mid-April, it offered a single-day promotion for Glass for $1,500. And now, it is offering the shades to anyone for as long as supplies last.
The $1,500 Teardown
It's unclear whether Glass will officially enter the market at the $1,500 price point.
A new report from IHS (IHS) values the hardware and manufacturing costs for Google Glass at just $152.47. However, the groundbreaking technology is worth much more than that.
"As in any new product -- especially a device that breaks new technological ground -- the bill of materials cost of Glass represents only a portion of the actual value of the system," said Rassweiler, who oversees IHS's cost benchmarking services unit.
This is true of most new electronic devices, but IHS says the point is "most dramatically illustrated' in Google Glass, where the vast majority of costs are tied up in non-material expenses such as engineering and development not included in IHS's $152 manufacturing price tag.