Google Nest, developers, and the battle with Apple for the home

Last September, Nest announced their Nest Developer Program. In preparation for tomorrow’s Google I/O conference, the Nest Developer Program is now active.

If you watch the video embedded below, you’ll get a sense of Nest’s vision for the home. Clearly, this is in direct competition with Apple’s HomeKit, part of an already crowded smart home space.

Startups like SmartThings and Revolv sell smart hubs, usually for around a couple hundred dollars, that act as wireless command centers for Internet-connected gadgets around the home, like light bulbs, wall switches and motion sensors.

New York-based Quirky has partnered with General Electric on a brand-new, smart-home focused arm called Wink. Honeywell, which in 2012 filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Nest Labs, recently released a Wi-Fi-connected thermostat called the Lyric that has a sleek new design and promises convenience and energy savings.

Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room is Apple, which announced plans for a home automation software kit during its developers conference in early June.

Apple started its pursuit of developers at WWDC a few weeks ago. Presumably, Google will do the same at Google I/O, starting tomorrow. Though the space is, indeed, crowded, Apple and Google have the largest developer communities of any other players.

Seems logical that Samsung will covet this market. Not sure how they’ll get there, though. They can copy and create, as they did in the phone and tablet space, but they rode on the Android coattails for developers, for apps. Not clear they’ll be able to do that in this case, given their commitment to the Tizen OS.

Microsoft also has a large developer community and has long pursued the smart home holy grail with their HomeOS.

The players are all lining up and the home automation space seems ripe for evolution. Going to be interesting to watch this all play out.

  • John V.

    The focus should be the smartphone, a versatile device that’s always in my pocket, but after they got the backlash after being acquired by Google, they’re presenting this weird distorted model where the center of integration is a thermostat and a smoke detector.

    The value proposition is waaaaay too fuzzy and confusing here. “Wait, my thermostat will decide when I get to do my laundry? WTF?”.

    The car integration is like a modern car coming out with a car phone. You don’t need it, because you have a cell phone. Your smartphone has a ton of sensors that already know where you are and where you’re going.

    And they know it, in the video they say “why would we do this” for some of the integrations, and if even the creators realize their product raises such questions, they’ve failed before they even start.

    That’s the opposite of simple and inevitable design. It’s a mindfuck. I expect this will be heavily tweaked over time until it reaches a point where a mainstream audience will be able to “get it”.

  • One correction to the article. Google is not starting it’s pursuit at I/O 2014. They started it at I/O 2011: It just never went anywhere beyond basic integrations [controlling lightbulbs, etc].

    2014 should show Google showcasing more plans on Android @Home.

    I do agree though…this market is going to only get more and more crowded.

    • they announced those android-inside light bulbs three years ago, but ive never seen one.

  • GFYantiapplezealots

    Apple is the clear choice here. Google will eventually have ads on everything and be collecting data about you through these devices.

    • matthewmaurice

      Only if Samsung doesn’t pull their heads out.

  • matthewmaurice

    If you accept John Moltz’s perspective from a previous post, it’s not hard to see how Samsung could easily ace both Apple and Google out of the home automation market. In the home it’s Samsung that has the advantage in the vertical because they already make a lot of refrigerators, washers/dryers, stoves, dishwashers, and LED lighting. With the right developers and product managers Samsung could get a truly integrated vertical a lot faster than anyone else. Apple and Google are developing their SDKs to appeal to as wide an OEM base as possible, Samsung only has to tailor, or at least optimize, Tizen for Samsung. Plus, Samsung could easily subsidize Tizen handsets by bundling them with the major appliances—buy a Samsung refrigerator/dishwasher/washing machine get a Tizen smartphone to control it for free! Of course the hard part is getting the product managers and developers to develop all those parts in the vertical to integrate.

    • Yep…they have massive reach in the home and already have smart machines they could update to Tizen for better device control.

      • No Name

        John, I’m starting to wonder if your a real person or a Google/Samsung troll. You sound like an ad.

        • You only feel that way because you dislike the truth. 😉

          • No Name

            Correction: You only feel that way because you dislike my opinion. 😉 Opinion is much different than truth. Google reminds me so much of IBM and Microsoft. It’s stunning. But for you, I wish you the best. I do recognize that you actually develop. At least that’s what you want me to think. 😉

          • LMBO @ me convincing you I code.

            Your response was attached to a comment I made that you simply cannot refute; hence, you dislike the truth. In short, Samsung has massive reach in the home [fridges, washers, dryers, stoves, etc] and they could update the “smart” one’s to Tizen.

            Refute that or let’s just drop it. I’m not interested in any petty “you suck” arguments. I have no problem w/ your opinions, even if I think they’re out in left field.

          • No Name

            But in the home, Samsung is just one of many, many, many, players. This limits their market and your opportunity.

          • Name one other competitor in the home market with the reach Samsung has to servicing the full vertical from home to mobile devices?

            The only other even close is maybe LG but none of their devices come close to Samsung’s reach.

            And you came keep attacking me all you want. I won’t bite beyond this last remark about it. All other attacks will simply be ignored.

          • No Name

            I’m not attaching you, like you I’m making a point. BTW, I see Samsung had a great quarter. This my last comment to you. Good luck with your adventures. I wish you the best.

    • what is the advantage to samsung of pushing their own home automation system, rather than building apps for, say, Apple’s to control the samsung appliances? cant be selling more phones if theyre giving them away.

      • matthewmaurice

        “what is the advantage to samsung of pushing their own home automation system” SRSLY?They’re already firmly in both ends of the hardware part of the vertical, so they’re only software away from full integration. As Apple has shown time and time again, when you own the whole stack you can add the value that drives “customer sat.” Giving away a phone is no big deal when it helps sell a much more expensive, and longer-term purchase, major appliance. Samsung would be smart to make iOS and Android apps that offer fundamental functionality, much like Apple does for iCloud via, especially non-Safari browsers, but you keep the truly exceptional functionality that comes from total integration of the handset, OS, and appliance within your own walled-garden.

  • EVula

    I can’t imagine developers preferring Google’s system to Apple’s; iOS users generally spend more money on the whole, and to hook up an entire house with a bunch of sensors isn’t going to be cheap. There’s just more money in Apple’s ecosystem than Google’s.

    • People used that as the rally cry for “iOS only” apps and that has lessened considerably to mostly iOS first, namely with games.

      Devs go where the people are and both platforms have loads of people on them.

      Lastly, as of last year, devs aren’t making too much more on iOS: [so says that one stat resource]

      • no, devs go where people spend money. its been discussed on many articles that the spenders are on iOS, that many of the android legion are asian no-names and not making purchases, etc.

        • Yes, they follow the money which is spent by the people and when the money isn’t too different between the platforms…they target both.

          That Gamasutra article is pretty skimpy. It mentions Android users spend 17% more time on games which means more money for apps with ads. So whether users are spending more money on buying apps or not means nothing if they’re supplementing with game.

          But…it’s 6 on 1, 1/2 dozen on the other. There is no winner to this discussion. It’s just clear developers are choosing both platforms.

        • Well…truth prevails again.

          Google paid $5B to developers between I/O 2013 and I/O 2014. That’s $5B in 1 year.

          Care to recant your above statements? 😉

          [no sarcasm: know how much Apple paid between WWDC ’13 and ’14? I couldn’t find it]

      • matthewmaurice

        I’m not sure it would be the devs so much as the manufacturers. I’m sure GE, Whirlpool, LG, Samsung, et al have to wonder why they should help Google gather a ton of valuable data on their own development dime. I expect to see a lot of the OEMs asking Google for a piece of the action in exchange for Android development. iOS they’ll do for free simply because the iOS customer is valuable in and of themselves.

        • They don’t care about giving Google access to data if it gives them a smarter device helping better their place in the market. They can’t embed iOS so there isn’t a value add there other than all of them building their own OS [or improving their current if they have one] to talk to iOS, a cost they wouldn’t incur if they used Android [or whatever Google announces, if anything, as a continuation to @Home.

          It’s no different than manufacturers of mobile devices. They don’t care so long as they get a popular, well built OS.

          • matthewmaurice

            I don’t buy that they “don’t care”, especially if they’re spending their own money on development resources outside of their core competencies. Say what you will about “bean counters” but they can count the beans. Why pay for your own products to become a revenue conduit for Google? The manufacturers don’t “need” an OS the way the handset makers do, and once an S/EVP of Product at one of the big appliance companies realizes that they have some of the most lucrative end-points in the consumer datastream it’s only a matter of time until Google gets reverse-“scroogled.” For example, imagine a “smart” washing machine that can determine via inside sensors how much detergent has been used, just handing that data to Google so they can sell Proctor & Gamble the opportunity to give the consumer a coupon is stupid. Selling that data to Google (or taking a percentage of the sale) is pretty smart. Creating an iOS app that will just remind the consumer that they’re probably getting low on Tide is even smarter, but that kind of altruism is hard to find in consumer products.

          • We don’t know what the revamped Android @Home will be. Maybe it is the suggestion you made about an iOS device notifying.

            And Google would never sell your data to Proctor and Gamble anyway.

          • matthewmaurice

            Google doesn’t sell the data, they sell the opportunity to use the data to show your ad to someone who may be interested. Their Achilles heel is that they NEED the data to make their money. Up to now people have always chosen to give it to Google in exchange for free use of mediocre software and services (or were compelled to by the manufacture of their smartphone/tablet), but soon we may see the disruption of that by the manufacturers of the Internet of Things endpoints.

          • Correct @ allowing targeting [not selling].

            ROFLMBO @ mediocre. That’s hilarious.

          • No Name

            Never say never

          • Agreed.

  • Terry Maraccini

    The connected home will make sense when the devices start to be more affordable. Nest doesn’t tell you how long it will take for you to see a return on its price. It doesn’t even tell you what it will be compared to a standard programmable thermostat, a device whose price has plummeted in the last few years.

    Apple’s approach of simply supplying a unified platform in software may be the wisest play available.

    I cannot see spending $300 for an entry lock.

  • Terry Maraccini

    Much of this smart appliance thing is useless tech. Smart refrigerator? Really? What do you want it to do that will improve your life in a real way? Smart washing machine? As long as you have to load the clothes, there’s no benefit made from automation. So much of this stuff silly. as another poster noted, there is already a lot of overlap in smart stuff.

    A real smart refrigerator would let me keep it full without the whole “paying for it” thing.

    • matthewmaurice

      And your point is? Let’s not forget, a guy just got a MILLION DOLLARS of funding for writing an app that let’s you say “Yo!” (and ONLY that) to other people. The tech world stopped making sense back in the days of and WebVan.