Some thoughts on what Google has bought Nest for

Some smart points about Google’s acquisition of Nest from John Gruber, who notes that in Tony Fadell Google has got someone who knows how to do hardware capable of scaling to tens of millions of units.

However, one minor point about John’s story, from this paragraph:

One of Alan Kay’s numerous oft-cited quotations is, “People who are really serious about software should partner with an OEM in Asia.” No, wait, that’s not what he said. What he said is, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” That’s never been true of Google, putting aside Motorola (which they seemingly acquired more for its patent portfolio than for its phone hardware acumen) and the niche Google Search Appliance.

In fact, Google has independently designed two pieces of hardware: The Chromebook Pixel and Nexus Q. But that, I think, makes John’s point stronger. Both the Pixel and Q were expensive, high-end pieces of hardware which could never have scaled to selling tens of millions of units. The Pixel was (and is) effectively a flagship demonstrator the potential for Chromebooks; and the Nexus Q was a unique media device which, because of its design, cost about four times as much as its competition.

With the Pixel and Q, Google proved it could design high-end hardware on its own. What it hasn’t been able to do is create high-quality hardware capable of being mass produced at low cost. Of all the tech hardware companies, only Apple and Nest have really nailed that one. And Apple wasn’t available for sale.

  • TheEternalEmperor

    How many Nest have they sold? I’m thinking that it can’t be more than a 250K? 500K? Does that qualify as mass-produced?(Really, no idea how many they’ve sold. Just doesn’t seem like it is a lot.).

  • Oluseyi

    Well, Tony Fadell did work at Apple and (co-)invent the iPod. Maybe that’s what he was referring to?

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Exactly. While the sales of Nest so far haven’t been iPod-like, it’s clearly a product made for the mass market, not a few thousand.

  • Todd Walker

    I’m curious, was Chromecast developed internally by Google? Anecdotally, that one seems to be a genuine hit. From what I gather (haven’t tried it), Chromecast is simple, has a focused purpose, is adequately supported by an ecosystem, and is inexpensive. Seems they can do it when they try.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    I believe it was. However, I think there’s some evidence that Google is having problems scaling it to the “10′s of millions” level. It’s only available in the US, despite working in other countries (I have one here in the UK, and services like Netflix work fine). And even in the US, it seems to have been out of stock for considerable periods of time.

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