* Luxottica to design, develop, distribute new Glass eyewear
* New glasses expected to hit the market in 2015 - CEO
* Luxottica shares climb 4 percent
(Recasts with details, analyst comment)
By Stephen Jewkes
MILAN, March 25 Google has teamed up
with Ray-Ban maker Luxottica in a bid to turn its
Internet-connected Glass spectacles into a widely-available,
stylish consumer product.
In a statement late on Monday, Luxottica, the world's
biggest eyewear maker, said it had agreed to design, develop and
distribute Glass eyewear, which so far has only been available
as an expensive prototype in the United States.
Google Glass is a small stamp-sized screen attached to a
pair of spectacle frames. It can record video, access email, and
retrieve information from the Web by connecting wirelessly to a
user's cell phone.
The deal will allow Italy's Luxottica to be first to
showcase the new technology to millions of potential consumers,
although Google has yet to surmount challenges such as battery
life and privacy concerns.
"We believe the challenge of convincing consumers to wear
computers on their face is a fashion problem as much as it is a
technology problem," said UBS analyst Fred Speirs of the logic
of the tie-up between Google and Luxottica.
The special glasses can be bought by U.S. residents for
$1,500 plus tax, according to Google's website. To reach a wider
consumer market, they would have to be put on sale for a much
Technology experts believe wearable computers such as Google
Glass could be the next big market for consumer devices, and
mirror the way smartphones evolved from PCs.
However, some express concern over issues such as intrusion
into the privacy of other people who may not be aware they are
being filmed or recorded, data security and the safety of
wearing Internet-connected glasses while performing other tasks.
Luxottica said its two major brands, Ray-Ban and Oakley,
would be part of the deal, but gave no details about the product
nor financial aspects of the deal.
"We believe that a strategic partnership with a leading
player like Google is the ideal platform for developing a new
way forward in our industry and answering the evolving needs of
consumers on a global scale," Luxottica Chief Executive Officer
Andrea Guerra said.
Analysts said it was too early to incorporate the impact of
the deal into revenue estimates.
"The partnership allows Luxottica to access a technology and
a product that could have high upward potential if the product
becomes a mass-market one," said Micaela Ferruta, an analyst
At 1600 GMT, Luxottica shares were up 4 percent at 40.55
euros, compared with a 0.6 percent rise in Italy's benchmark
FTSE MIB stock index. Google shares were little
Google had previously hoped to launch a consumer version of
Glass this year. But Guerra, who said he and Google had been
working on a deal for the past 10 months, told Italian daily La
Repubblica that the new glasses would be ready to hit the market
only in 2015.
In January, Google struck a deal with VSP, the largest
optical insurer in North America, which will provide consumers
with subsidised frames and prescription lenses for its Glass.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Jucca and Sabina Suzzi; Writing
by Lisa Jucca; Editing by Mark Potter)