Thoughts on Google’s Acquisition of Nest

I don’t currently own a Nest product and now that Nest has been purchased by Google I almost certainly will never own a Nest product. Here are my reasons for coming to that conclusion.1

  1. Google has a bad track record of maintaining products: There really isn’t a lot to say here. The record of Google’s long-term maintenance of acquired products is a charnel house of badly maintained and abandoned software and services. While this isn’t a huge problem with software and services, it is a huge issue to me when we’re talking about an expensive piece of hardware that sits at the core of my home’s climate control system.

  2. This purchase is almost certainly not about the product itself: My buddy John Welch made an interesting point on App.net. There is a very good chance that this purchase is more about Nest’s portfolio of patents relating to learning hardware than it is about cornering the thermostat market. Additionally, bringing Tony Fadell into the fold gives Google something that it desperately needs: someone who actually has a clue about consumer hardware design.

  3. Google’s consumer support is atrocious: Well, Google’s enterprise support ain’t no great shakes either but let’s focus on what’s important. Everyone reading this blog has heard stories of Google’s horrific “look it up on the web / here’s a Google Group if your lucky” method of “support”. While that model is (barely) acceptable in the world of software and services it is absolutely untenable in the world of consumer hardware. This is even worse when you consider that the Nest thermostat is a device meant to connect to a system that most consumers have absolutely no experience with and, if installed improperly can theoretically destroy a system that costs thousands of dollars to replace.

    From what I’ve seen Nest has done an admirable job of making the process of tying a Nest thermostat into an existing HVAC system as consumer friendly as possible, but I’ve also read numerous tales of woe from tech luminaries unable to get a Nest thermostat to work with their system. This shit ain’t simple2

  4. I just don’t trust Google: I’ve listed this last, because the previous three points are actually sufficient for me remove Nest devices from consideration but honestly if the previous issues didn’t exist, this would be enough. I simply don’t trust Google to not put it’s all-consuming desire for data above my privacy. In some instances this isn’t an issue to me but when applied to a device that sits in my house tracking my coming and going it crosses the creepy line.

  1. Note that tribal loyalty to Apple is not among these reasons. 

  2. I have a fairly extensive, if not precisely licensed, level of experience with home electrical systems. This stuff is more complicated than the average tech pundit knows.