★ Nest Introduces First New Hardware Categories in Years, Enters Security Market (Sep 20, 2017)
Nest held a press conference in San Francisco today and introduced three new products including its first really new product categories since its 2014 acquisition of Dropcam (this chart I put together a while ago presents the picture prior to today). The theme of the event was progress towards Nest’s ultimate goal – creating “a home that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it.” That mission combines Apple’s tendency to reinvent familiar products in ways that makes them vastly easier and more pleasant to use (unsurprising given the Nest founders’ Apple heritage) with more of an environmental message, largely tied to the smart thermostats. The first product announced today was a new outdoor version of the Nest Cam IQ indoor camera announced recently which added smarts including facial recognition to reduce false alarms among other things. The second was the Nest Hello, a smart doorbell very much along the lines of others already in the market but again with some clever technology borrowed from the camera line, and is the only product announced today that won’t be available until next year. The third was Nest’s big new category, home security, in the form of the Nest Secure system, which combines a hub and sensors to monitor movement inside a home as well as doors and windows.
The Nest product line now feels a lot more comprehensive than it did a couple of years ago, with smart thermostats, smoke/CO detectors, and indoor cameras for inside the home, outdoor cameras and the doorbell for outside it, and a security system to keep it all secure, plus integrations with various third parties for lighting and other device categories. But it’s very much still an off-the-shelf, DIY, pay-upfront approach to the smart home, which continues to limit the addressable market to people willing to tinker, take risks, and self-manage with their home gear. When new CEO Marwan Fawaz came on board, I had thought he might lead the company through a transformation to more of a services company, which would put it much more in line with the telcos, cable companies, and others already offering that model and thereby reaching a much broader market. But there’s little sign of that yet – the only service component announced today is provided through a partnership with a third party monitoring company, and the prices for the new gear remain high: Nest Cam IQ outdoor is $349 for one, the starter pack for Nest Secure is $499 but only comes with two sensors, with most homes likely requiring several more, with pricing for Hello yet to be announced.
As such, Nest continues to largely target people with higher disposable incomes and a willingness to self-install and self-manage. My Nest thermostats frequently disconnect randomly from the strong WiFi signal in my home and suffer from other glitches, so unless Nest has improved things dramatically in these new products they’re likely to require quite a bit of management. It’s also worth noting that there continues to be minimal integration with the rest of Alphabet – I’d hope that some of the clever detection stuff has leant on Alphabet’s broader AI and machine learning capabilities, and Google Assistant integration is coming to the Nest Cam IQ devices in a software update. But Nest feels like it’s still being run very much at arm’s length from Google, for better or worse.
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