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Handicapping Who Will Buy Wink

Mike Wolf Amazon Apple Google Home Depot Quirky Wink

I was on vacation for much of the past few weeks, so I missed this interesting piece by Stacey on Kaufman and Wink. 

In some ways, that Kaufman is saying that Wink and Quirky are in trouble is not that surprising. We've heard this before. But this piece goes further, detailing the size of the business, the company's cash problems (they "ran out of money weeks ago"), how they've hired bankers to sell Wink and much more.

It's a surprisingly transparent admission of trouble, one that I'm not actually sure will help the company's case. I mean sure, we know you're in trouble, but is telling everyone in detail about how much trouble you're in the best strategy to help you at the bargaining table? I wouldn't think so.

All that said, it makes one wonder who exactly would buy Wink.  After all, DIY hub-centric platforms - even ones that have sold 300 thousand units - aren't exactly cash cows at this point in the market where point solutions rule. That said, purchasing Wink could fast-start some efforts by a bigger company looking to get into the smart home game.

Below are some potential buyers - likely and unlikely - with some quick thoughts on why a Wink purchase would/wouldn't make sense.

Apple: chances of a Wink purchase: Zero. Apple has made it clear they see iOS devices and, to a certain degree, the Apple TV as the center of their smart home efforts. I just can't see it.

Microsoft: chances of a Wink purchase: Near zero. Microsoft has been comparatively quiet next to their big-tech brethren on the smart home front, so on paper an acquisition of a Wink could make some sense. However, my sources tell me Microsoft isn't interested and that any consumer IoT efforts likely wouldn't be through picking up a lightly-tarnished brand such as Wink.

Samsung: chances of a Wink purchase: Near zero. They have SmartThings. But Samsung has been known to do crazy things in the past, so I can't exactly say zero.

Google: Chances of a Wink purchase: Zero. They have Nest and their own "smart home" visionary in Fadell, not to mention they also purchased the remainders of Revolv last year, which satiated any smart home hub IP itch they needed to scratch.

LG: Chances of a Wink purchase: near zero. The company has already been working on a variety of smart home product efforts, including developing a DIY smart home hub/camera for ADT using a Zonoff as the backend.  I doubt they'd want to complicate things by adding Wink and their products to the mix.

Home Depot: Chances of a Wink purchase: slightly better than zero. They are mentioned here because they were a partner with Wink in some ways, putting lots of their early smart home hopes on their partnership with the company. That said, I don't see the retailer getting into the hardware market and given the recall they might be ready to wash their hands of Wink.

GE: Chances of a Wink purchase: slightly better than zero. They are a close partner with Quirky, GE is a strategic investor (they were in on the Series D round) and they have worked together to develop products like their smart air conditioner. That said, GE has been divesting much of its consumer hardware (it sold of its white good appliance group), so I'm not sure I can see them scooping up Wink.  Still, as a company with a stake in Wink (by extension of its investment in Quirky), there's a chance they see buying up the assets at a discount might be one way to recoup its losses.

Amazon: Chances of a Wink purchase: near zero (but not quite zero). I think Amazon's strategy is a multilayered one for smart home, but one that has purposefully avoided going down the traditional "here's our hub" version we've seen from others. That said, Bezos likes a good sale, and he might see value in acquiring the assets of Wink. Also, if by chance Quirky/Wink were up for sale together, I can see Bezos taking a shine to an adventuresome, moonshot-happy CEO like Kaufman. And oh yeah - Quirky is already an early partner with Amazon on its Dash replenishment services with its Poppy connected appliance effort.

Darkhorse Surprise WTF Suitor: Chance of a Wink purchase: Best. I honestly think the buyer of Wink will be a surprise that's not from the above list. It could be a retailer who feels they're late to the game, a large Asian manufacturer/OEM who wants to enter the US market and see Wink's relationships with retailers and small degree of brand equity as a plus, or it could be a large computing/mobile company who wants an entry point to consumer IoT like HTC, Acer, Dell or HP. It also could be a home security hardware maker that wants to add a DIY product line to its lineup. In other words, I don't know at this point, but I have a feeling it will be a surprise in this category. 

What I do know is Wink is up for sale, and my sources have it that things are moving fast, so we might know within days to weeks what exactly happens to Wink. Stay tuned...

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  • Ryan on

    Unlikely for Microsoft to get involved as they have already expressed interest in the home automation game by partnering with Insteon back in May 2014.

  • TechPaul64 on

    @OZ Good point, I hadn’t thought of that. But I could still see some creative integrated solutions where at the very least the networking and IoT logic could be handled by a single hub and the antennas could placed apart from each other in some fashion maybe using powerline communication back to the hub). It just seems odd to have my router sitting there connected to a hue hub, wink hub, etc. That just doesn’t seem like the future.

  • Oz on

    @ TechPaul64 I’m probably wrong but wouldn’t there be a lot of interference from all the radios? As it is Wink already recommends keeping the hub away from the router, imagine all of them so close.

  • TechPaul64 on

    Yes, I saw Dave Zatz’s article and his mention of D-Link caught my eye. I often wonder why smart home hubs need to exist when consumers are already willing to purchase routers. Although nowadays routers are often being provided by ISPs, I wouldn’t be surprised if D-Link or another networking company saw this as an opportunity to gain an edge over the competition for what is likely a low valuation. A hub/router product might be a more justifiable purchase for the cautious consumer and quite honestly that product might be more reliable as one combo device.

  • Michael Wolf on

    @TechPaul64 – I agree, that quote from Kaufman tells all. While Wink’s brand and actual product might not survive (Dave Zatz wrote a piece in response to mine that basically says this – ) – there is value in the people and probably some of the IP/body of work. Google did buy Revolv so I have to wonder if that satiated all their desire for core smart home networking – but you never know.

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