Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 10:55 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
When Google drops $3.2 billion in cash on an acquisition, as it did yesterday with Nest Labs, maker of the Nest self-learning thermostat, you know there are some big, long-term visions playing in the background.
Most of the reviews I've read involve the companies capitalizing on the still nascent "Internet of things," where all devices are intelligently connected, exchanging valuable information that improves our lives. Even though Google and Nest were pretty vague in their joint announcement, I more or less buy into this rationale for the acquisition.
But, looking at the deal through my video-centric prism, I can also see some interesting possibilities coming from a tight integration between Nest and Chromecast, Google's hot-selling connected TV device.
As an owner of a Nest thermostat, I love its Apple-esque simplicity and elegance, flexible remote access it provides and the cost-savings/efficiency it delivers. It's a great illustration of Nest's focus on game-changing innovations with under-optimized home devices.
One big under-optimized home device is the TV. Though Smart TVs, various connected TV devices (e.g. Roku, Apple TV, TiVo) and even some set-top boxes (e.g. Comcast's X1 and Dish's Hopper) have certainly moved the TV/online video experience along, the explosion of video choices has created chaos in the living room.
As I've written in the past, Chromecast did an outstanding job, especially for version 1 of the product, of helping to simplify the process of bringing certain online video sources to the TV. But there is a lot yet to be done, not only to simplify the source selection process, but also to tie TVs into other devices, understand/extrapolate on viewing choices and create breakthrough new experiences.
This is where Nest's expertise could be invaluable to Google. Today's Chromecast is a great start, but bringing to it some of the self-learning, automation and physical sensor capabilities could create a whole new layer of innovation with TVs far beyond new screens (e.g. curved, OLED, etc.). I'm not quite sure myself at this point of the specifics, but I like the possibilities here and think some exciting stuff is going to result.