We told you earlier this month that Google is internally referring to the next iteration of its Glass hardware as “Enterprise Edition,” and rightfully so — the Explorer Edition is long gone, and people close to Google have said that the company is planning to go full-force with its wearable computer in the workplace. But how are they going to do that? People familiar with the company’s plans have told 9to5Google that Google is currently planning to distribute the device exclusively through its certified set of Glass for Work partners…

While many fans of the product have hoped that Google will launch the device for the consumer market in some way, our sources say that quite the opposite is happening — Google isn’t currently planning to distribute the next Glass directly to end-users at all. The upcoming hardware revision that has been in testing within Glass for Work startups for quite some time now is being built for those companies and their needs, rather than for those interested in using the device as a smartwatch alternative. Adding a 5 GHz WiFi band is the most obvious example, as it was liekly built-in for the video streaming and connectivity needs of many of the aforementioned partners’ workplace applications.

While we’ve heard from several sources that the device does have some UI tweaks compared to the previous hardware, the next Glass is being built under the assumption that Glass for Work partners will be loading their proprietary software and selling the device with their solutions baked in. Glass for Work partners are being given free-reign to do what they want with the hardware. And everything Google is shipping, from the device’s larger prism to an external battery pack, is being built according to the feedback of the Glass for Work startups.

Perhaps most interestingly, we’ve heard from several people that there are hundreds of Google Glass Enterprise Edition devices in the wild. From being shown to those most in-the-know within Glass for Work startups to some that have already been deployed for certain use cases, Google is clearly testing the device much more broadly and most certainly has plans to make it official in some capacity in the relatively near future. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the next Glass is coming in 2015 with Intel inside. We’ve independently confirmed the latter, and the former seems more certain every day.

Google hasn’t said much about its plans for those who were part of its Explorer Program, simply saying earlier this year that Explorers will “see future versions of Glass when they’re ready to be released.” It’s certainly a possibility that Enterprise-focused Glass could be made exclusively available to some of the most enthusiastic of the program’s supporters (and it’s also possible that Google’s plans could change entirely between now and when the Enterprise Edition is made official, for that matter), but we’ve heard nothing of such a program to give Explorers special treatment.

A couple of weeks ago, a device by the name of “A4R-GG1″ was caught passing through the FCC. The device, which we can say is very likely to be the “Enterprise Edition,” includes support for 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi on both 2.4GHz and 5 GHz bands — which is something we’ve confirmed ourselves is included in the most recent revisions of the Google Glass Enterprise Edition hardware. We also told you that battery life, performance, and heat management have been moderately — but not drastically — improved on the devices currently in many hands.

(Photo via Wearable Intelligence)