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Is It Time For Google and Nest To Simplify Its Smart Home Messaging?

Mike Wolf Google Nest OnHub Weave

Back before Andy Rubin left Google, he had expressed his annoyance at all the duplicated efforts that the company had around the digital living room and TV. There was Google TV, Android TV, YouTube, early smart home living room effort in @Home, and lots of other skunkworks efforts. 

Eventually Google tidied up its TV efforts and clarified its messaging, but the reality is the company has always encouraged creative chaos, letting managers build fiefdoms around internal entrepreneurial efforts to help the company keeps its edge while looking for that next disruptive market opportunity. This approach lets the company retain top talent who otherwise would go elsewhere to satiate their need to create, while also occasionally letting them hit paydirt with some really interesting products like Chromecast.

The downside to attacking a market from different angles is things get messy. Messy from a product and messaging standpoint.  And messy is where we're at with Google's smart home efforts.

Just consider all that Google/Alphabet/Nest has going on in this space over the past few years:

  • Google's consumer-facing smart home product group is Nest, which is actually part of Alphabet.
  • Nest created technology that is the basis for Thread, which isn't a Google or Alphabet initiative, but instead an industry consortium.
  • Google acquired Revolv, a smart home hub company, and quietly killed it. 
  • Google's Android group launched Brillo and Weave last spring. 
  • Google announced the OnHub router using Brillo/Weave, a consumer-facing router/smart home hub. OnHub is not a part of Nest, Google/Alphabet's consumer-facing brand for smart home hardware. 
  • Last week Nest announced Weave, which is different than Google Weave, but they are likely share some of the same schema. 
  • Google bought Dropcam in 2014. They launched the Nestcam this year, the newest connected camera, which you can use with your Dropcam or Nest app. 

There's lots going on. Part of it is that IoT and smart home are early markets and Alphabet/Google/Nest is trying to establish itself on multiple levels and with different touch point catering to the developer, product manufacturer, partner and end-user constituencies. The problem is it's not abundantly clear where one effort starts and the next begins. I'm not sure it's clear within Google/Alphabet.

Now, I think those within Google-Alphabet-Nest would argue that they know exactly what each effort is aimed and all are necessary. But even if this is true, they need to do a better job of communicating in the market. All you have to do is read the multitude of articles around Google Brillo, Google Weave, Nest Weave, OnHub to know they clearly haven't done a good job of explaining what the differences are between the various efforts since each article seems to have a different and often completely different explanation of what each effort encompasses. 

Just the simple fact they have the SAME NAME for a smart home framework within two different divisions in Weave that is not the same product is illustrative of the fact they need to work harder on their messaging. 

Remember - these aren't secret projects, but instead products and platforms that exist today that the company is pushing in the market. There shouldn't be a reason for confusion at this point.   

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  • Brett Jurgens on

    Really great summary Michael. I think the whole industry and its followers are painfully confused with that’s going on a Google (Alphabet/Nest/Weave). As the leaders of this space, both Google and Apple haven’t had clear execution thus far. I believe this puts a damper on technical innovation and messaging, and thus mass consumer adoption.

    Thanks for writing about this. Would love to get your thoughts.

    Brett,
    Notion|CEO


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