Is Google Glass Stealing This Apple Partner?


Foxconn may have earned its stripes (and notoriety) from its partnership with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), but the Taiwanese company likes to keep its free agent status, as evidenced by its rumored new production agreement with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Foxconn Technology Group, according to a person familiar with the matter, will help Google produce its digital eyeglasses at a factory in California.

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The Financial Times reported earlier today that Foxconn’s flagship, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., will help Google develop Project Glass, which Google co-founder Sergey Brin is touting as the future of mobile computing. The “smart glasses” are being developed as a sort of next-step on the smartphone frontier — they will include the voice recognition software that has become a staple of modern smartphones while doing away with the need for touch altogether. Visuals will be displayed on the glasses themselves, which also include a camera that relates your location and surroundings and allows you to take photos and videos.

Foxconn, based in Taipei, is the primary supplier of iPhones, iPads, and iPods for Apple. Its factories in China and Brazil produce as many as 400,000 iPhones per day. Google, which is responsible for the open-source Android operating system, is one of Apple’s chief competitors in the smartphone space, accounting for more smartphone activations than any other mobile OS…

There’s a small but real chance a partnership with Google could hurt Foxconn’s production agreement with Apple, but that’s a risk the company would be smart to take, as securing Google orders would be a major boon and help reduce the company’s reliance on Apple, which now accounts for roughly 40 percent of its revenue.

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Of course, though Google’s glasses are being widely hyped, not everyone is convinced they’re a good idea. Google plans to invite a limited number of users to test the interactive glasses in the coming days after conducting an online competition, the results of which were announced yesterday. For $1,500, select developers have been given the “opportunity” to buy the device. Their analysis of the the glasses will play heavily in expectations and likely Google’s ongoing development of the product.

No doubt the current $1,500 price tag is extremely limiting, and puts the glasses on plane with PCs rather than smartphones. Whether Foxconn’s deal with Google will prove profitable depends completely on whether there’s a real market for the unprecedented device, which last June Brin said would likely see a broader consumer offering by 2014.

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