Apple should have bought Nest Labs. Google bought it instead

I’ve been a long time admirer of the Nest thermostat that I first got for my mother a couple years ago and then one for myself last year. It’s a pretty metallic ring with a nice circular screen that dials temperature up and down and/or connects with its own app on your other devices or your account on Nest.com to have actions performed from wherever you are.

Then the company came out with this smoke detector, which is cool, but needs to do more than it does (which is just allow silencing by motion and monitoring levels by phone). I want to see surveillance models of all their products (same version but with cameras inside to view your rooms), too.

Anyway: It was formed by an ex Apple employee, reeks of Apple design (which is a pleasant smell) and just has Apple written all over it. I’ve been waiting for Apple to make a damn offer and open up a whole series of house products that connect with the forever-upcoming Apple Television Set and others. For some reason, Apple wasn’t interested and Google stepped in instead. $3.2 Billion later, Nest becomes a Google company.

While Apple, Google, and Microsoft dominate PCs, mobile devices, and car consoles, no company has taken control of the house yet. The connected home has long been tech giants’ white whale of every tech giant; nearly every Silicon Valley player, from HP to Dell to Intel, has detailed its vision for the future of the connected home. But the fantastical future vision videos created over the years have amounted to nothing more than impressive displays of CGI–Nest, on the other hand, has actually started to execute on the promise of the connected home by creating a standard protocol for the house. If Nest is able to get there first, it’ll force other future players to build on its platform–if anyone wants to make some connected smart refrigerator or TV or toilet, the devices will have to speak Nest’s language. That’s the kind of leverage that could make Nest (and now Google) a major player in the industry.

“From the beginning, our vision was to create a conscious home. A home that is more thoughtful, intuitive–and nice to look at. No one had cracked the code and we were confident we could do it with the right product, the right team, and focus,” Fadellwrote today in a blog post. “Google will help us fully realize our vision of the conscious home and allow us to change the world faster than we ever could if we continued to go it alone.”

Perhaps the more compelling part of the deal is acquiring Fadell‘s talent. One of the most prominent characters in the Valley, Fadell helped usher in the mobile era at Apple before leaving to start Nest. Arguably more than any other Apple veteran, Fadell has built his startup with an Apple-like DNA, infusing Nest’s products with a strong sense of design, brand, and purpose. It’s certainly a huge coup for Google, one of Apple’s fiercest rivals. (Apple was reportedly not a potential bidder, whereas Google Ventures, the company’s investment arm, has long been an investor in Nest.)

As part of deal, according to Google’s statement, Nest will continue to “operate under the leadership of Tony Fadell and with its own distinct brand identity.”

UPDATE: Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs’ biographer says on CNBC that Tim Cook is vulnerable and his deal with China takes a back seat as far as big-deals go to Google’s gobble of Nest:

Meanwhile, Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller unfollowed Nest CEO and the Nest company on Twitter. At first glance it may sound like petty high school popularity politicking, but it actually shows the reality that Nest is an Apple enemy now. I don’t get why Apple didn’t want to buy this company and why they didn’t. It makes no sense to me.

As the protector of Apple’s brand, Schiller’s unfollowing of Fadell and Nest is perhaps unsurprising. With the Nest deal, a source says that Google will gain approximately 200 former Apple employees. The majority of Nest employees worked at Apple over the course of their careers, with many being involved in high-profile projects like the iPod, iPad, and iPhone. The design of the Nest Thermostat and Nest Protect have also been compared to the designs of Apple products, so the fact that Nest’s products are now under the umbrella of Apple’s fiercest competitor may not be a pleasing sight for Apple’s marketing head.

This is not the first time that Schiller has publicly taken the stand against Google products. The Apple veteran has blasted Google and its partners on Twitter for issues ranging from hardware benchmark claims to mobile operating system security. Schiller’s practice of taking small jabs at competitors also goes beyond Google. For a couple of years, the then-exclusive-to-iOS Instagram app was heavily promoted both on the App Store and by Phil Schiller. After Instagram expanded its business to the Android platform, Schiller closed his Instagram account.

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