Has Google Finally Found a Home for Nest?

by Steve Nason | May. 9, 2019

During the opening day of the 2019 Google I/O event, Google’s annual developer conference, the tech giant announced that its ”Home” product line is being rebranded under its new Google Nest banner alongside its Nest product line. The Home products include smart speakers, streaming media devices, and Wifi routers. This announcement begs the question: has Google finally found a home for Nest? As the uneven relationship between Google and Nest illustrates, the answer is anything but straightforward.

Nest’s odyssey began when two former Apple engineers, seeing an opportunity in the marketplace to develop a better smart thermostat, founded Nest Labs in 2010. The company quickly emerged as a leader in the smart home space. In January 2014, Google purchased Nest, spinning it off as a separate subsidiary the following year as Google reformed into its new parent company, Alphabet. Last year, Nest was again on the move when it was merged into Google’s hardware division under the company’s Home devices unit alongside the company’s smart speaker and Chromecast teams. With the latest announcement of branding Google’s Home products under Nest, it seems that Google is finally prepared to fully integrate its wayward brand into the fold. However, several questions and challenges still remain.

Google provided specific examples of Home products that would be rebranded under Google Nest. These include the Google Home Hub smart display, the newly-announced Google Nest Hub Max, Google Wifi routers, and Chromecast streaming media devices. Going forward, new products within those product lines will be branded as Google Nest. However, branding for almost all existing products will remain the same—including the popular Google Home smart speakers.

The rebranding effort will not only have a direct effect on the Home product lineup, but the Nest customer experience as well. As part of the merger of Nest and Home, existing Nest account holders are strongly encouraged to migrate their account to a Google account. Beginning later this year, Nest account holders will only be provided security updates while Google accounts will receive the new product feature updates. However, while Nest owners will be able to use their newly-created Google account to control their existing Nest devices via the Google Home app, users will not be able to set up new devices with it. So, for the time being, users will have to hold on to the Nest app.

In addition, Google is terminating its Works With Nest developer program in favor of Works With Google Assistant. In theory, this will offer developers the same functionality as before. However, in practice it appears this change could disable third-party app integrations such as Alexa and SmartThings unless developers migrate their products to the new platform. If Google moves ahead with this action as currently outlined, Nest users may lose the ability to control some of the devices they own.

The complex and confusing parameters that Google laid out on both the product and customer side strongly suggests they are not entirely comfortable with giving Nest full control of its smart home universe. Clearly, Google has a lot at stake with its Google Nest business and how they market those products to consumers. As Parks Associates research shows:

  • 36% of all US broadband households own a remotely-monitored internet-connected device in the home.
  • 28% own at least one smart home device such as smart thermostats, networked cameras, smart video doorbells, and smart smoke/CO detectors.
  • On average, US broadband households own 10.5 smart home and connected entertainment devices such as smart speakers.

A measured approach to rebranding their smart home products is understandable; however, by providing mixed messages on the direction of the Google Nest brand, Google may do more harm than good to its customer acquisition and retention.

So, what is the answer to the question, “has Google finally found a home for Nest?” At this point, the answer is “maybe.”

Further Reading:

Next: Smart Home: Standalone Devices versus Whole Home Systems
Previous: Strategies Needed to Achieve a Unified Experience in the Smart Home


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