Nest is joining...Google?
If you read the headline here and breezed over it like I did at first, you can be forgiven — I had a wave of déjà vu, figuring this was just old news somehow coming through my feed. Actually Nest, which was acquired by Google back in 2014, never really joined the company in the first place: it was a branch of Alphabet and remained independent despite common owners.
Now, Nest is merging into Google's hardware team in something of a lord, what took so long revelation that Nest is good at making really nice hardware, and Google could use that help. As of now, Nest reports into Google's Hardware chief, who is responsible for Pixel, Chromecast and Google Home — making it a formidable force against both Amazon and Apple going forward.
Keeping Nest separate was always a noble idea, but caused a number of problems. First, with little oversight, the company mostly floundered for years with zero new products shipping until its founder Tony Fadell eventually left. The company at this point was in turmoil, with reports saying that it was a team with a 'virtually unlimited budget and no results' for what seemed like years:
Two-and-a-half years under Google/Alphabet, a quadrupling of the employee headcount, and half-a-billion dollars in acquisitions yielded minor yearly updates and a rebranded device. That's all.
After Fadell left Nest in 2016, the company tried to prove it was back. A hardware event last year featured the company's first original products since the thermostat debuted in 2011; a home security system and vastly improved cameras. The level of polish on these products, and even the Nest itself, always left me scratching my head: surely the Google team could do with this resource, but instead it built its own dedicated hardware group for Pixel and Home.
With the teams merging, it'll be interesting to see how pace develops on Google's hardware. I've heard that hiring for the hardware team, off the back of the success of Pixel 2 (sales doubled year-on-year), is hiring at an unprecedented clip. What remains to be seen is if Google's team can integrate well with Nest's, particularly given past reports of culture clash.
There's some great precedent for adding some Google magic to existing products; I'd love to see an upgraded Nest with a Home assistant built right in — it seems like an obvious vector for getting into more people's homes given the thermostat's continued success.
The same goes the other way around. Google's new Home app is a great hub for Chromecast, Google Home and other products, but bizarrely can't interact with connected Nest devices. With a little luck, this should start improving rapidly.
With Nest, the HTC engineers it acquired, and the success of Pixel, perhaps Google has a potent combination on its hands... if it can refrain from changing its mind for a while.
Microsoft doubles down on Progressive Web Apps
If you're not familiar with 'PWA' these are modern web applications that can run natively, using OS-level APIs, and feel like native apps. Discuss, Charged's community, functions in this way if you add it to your home screen on Android — it'll launch with a dedicated app bar, no browser around it, and enable push notifications. Microsoft is embracing these apps full-force, meaning it'll be tapping into a growing movement of developers who build once, and run everywhere. This is a smart play for a growing segment as native app development continues to disappear.
Designing Windows 95's interface
A really cool read about the process of designing Windows 95's interface, and how groundbreaking it was at the time. I love this piece, it's a blast from the past, and has so much insight into how Microsoft thought about the computer.
The house that spied on me
A fun, skeptical take on putting your entire house on the internet. Kashmir Hill went all-in on wiring up her 'smart' home and writes about the data footprint it generated, along with the stress that came with it. Some level of smarts are great, but if this piece has any takeaway it's that every device maker out there wants to cram the internet into stuff right now — and it ends up making things a lot more complicated instead of simple.
iPhone source code posted online
A core part of the iPhone's source code, iBoot, was posted online yesterday. Apple guards these secrets well, but this has interesting implications for the almost-dead jailbreak community; access to source code (even if it's dated) is a nice opportunity to figure out new ways of building exploits as Apple continues to make it more difficult than ever to break in.