Google – Back Door Innovation?

Google bought Nest this week. Interesting on a number of levels. 

Let’s start with Tony Fadell. Fadell, along with Matt rogers co-founded Nest, and both were part of the team that created the iPod. The Nest team has close to a hundred ex-apple employees. According to most analysts, this is an important component of the deal. Google is trying harder to create better hardware. The Nexus hasn’t done well. Nor has it’s Motorola division. Nest brings serious consumer electronics design chops to the table. The question is, will Google be able to use this? 

Fadell, according to articles, had personality clashes with people at Apple. By all accounts great inventors and geniuses aren’t the best of team-workers or organisation-people. Let’s wait to see how it pans out for Google and the Nest team. 

Apart from the creative talent, Google may have it’s eye on the Home. Along with connected cars, where Google has a significant stake, the digital home and digital healthcare are two key battlegrounds. Nest gives Google a route to your living room, where Apple has so far dominated, with the likely exception of your web search tool. 

It’s worth noting that the other news from Google was the prototype of ‘smart’ contact lenses. These lenses will analyse the fluid from your eyes, to monitor for diabetes. This will save the user from having to do multiple blood tests. We know that the era of smart devices is coming and these are just the starting points. 

What I find interesting is that Google exited the healthcare and energy markets a couple of years ago, when they had two very good propositions. A dashboard for managing your energy information and an online service for keeping your healthcare information in one place. Given Google’s strength, and the increasing centrality of data and analytics, I find it interesting that Google would shut down these properties and then re-enter the same markets through a device route. 

Is this because Google has accepted the Apple model that you can only win by controlling the entire hardware-software-data ecosystem? Or is it that the data driven approach was prone to a significant backlash from privacy and governmental controls, especially in Europe? Or is it that consumers like you and me are much more comfortable with innovation that we can see and touch? 

Either way, I expect to see the return of Googles Health and Energy portals, this time backed by physical devices which can woo the consumer better, while distracting the attention from the real value of the information!