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IHS: Sales of Smart Glasses to Hit Almost 10 Million by 2016

We already know that Google Glass is coming end of 2013 or early 2014. We've also heard rumblings about other similar products from Google's rivals, so we know smart glasses will be something of a trend in the next year or so. However, IHS predicts they'll take off in a really big way.

"Google Glass this month began shipping to application developers who registered as early backers and paid the $1,500 price tag. This is expected to spur innovations in applications that should take Glass from early adopters to the mass market," IHS said in its report. "As the developers get to work and Google encourages venture capitalists to back them, shipments will begin to surge to high volumes, according to the upside forecast."

The market research firm reckons Google Glass will launch a whole new product category. One that will ship almost 10 million units in the next four years. IHS predicts a whopping the global market for smart glasses could amount to almost 10 million units from 2012 through 2016. According to IHS, shipments of smart glasses were just 50,000 in 2012. IHS thinks it could be as much as 6.6 million units in 2016.

It's not a slam dunk for Google, though. While IHS is predicting massive shipment figures for the smart glasses industry as a whole, the company says the success of Google Glass will depend on developers and their applications.

"The applications are far more critical than the hardware when it comes to the success of Google Glass," said Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at IHS. "In fact, the hardware is much less relevant to the growth of Google Glass than for any other personal communications device in recent history. This is because the utility of Google Glass is not readily apparent, so everything will depend on the appeal of the apps. This is why the smart glass market makes sense for a software-oriented organization like Google, despite the company’s limited previous success in developing hardware. Google is betting the house that developers will produce some compelling applications for Glass."

No doubt Google I/O will feature a lot of Google Glass talk, and the fact that developers will have almost a full year with the device before it goes on general sale will no doubt help. The price is also expected to drop significantly once it becomes available to consumers, which means the technology will then be more accessible to those that like to develop applications as a hobby.