Nest founder and former Apple iPod lead designer Tony Fadell has intimated in a BBC interview that the decision to make an early version of Google Glass available for public sale may have been a mistake.
He said that while Google has always launched beta versions of its products and gathered feedback from users, there was a very big difference between software and hardware.
If you are only doing services based on electrons, you can iterate quickly, test it, and modify it and get it right. But when you are dealing with actual atoms – hardware – and you have to get manufacturing lines and it takes a year or more to develop that product, you better understand what it is and what it’s trying to do and specifically what it’s not going to do.
Customers have to spend money to buy those atoms. They want something that delivers value or you end up with a real disappointment and you can spoil the market.
He was, however, “very bullish” about the product, and believes it has a big future …
Wearables are like the computer industry in the 1980s, he said – technology that itself is at a very early stage, but betting against its future would be dumb. The critical task is to learn about what does and doesn’t work for people.
Fadell said that he wasn’t asked by Google to take the lead on Google Glass, he instead asked to do so.
I offered and said ‘this is important.’ It can be as important as the iPod and the iPhone, but it’s going to take time to get it right.
Fadell also talked about home automation and touched on driverless cars. Speaking of Nest, he said that he hated the terms Internet of Things.
I think [that term] is doing a total disservice to the products at the space. Everyone just thinks we’re going to take some magic connectivity and throw them at anything, and customers go ‘What does that mean?’
The term ‘smart home’ is no better, he says, as it’s been around for too long, and been used to describe too many generations of technology that failed to deliver.
It’s a broken promise. That’s why we talk about ‘thoughtful homes.’
He said that Nest’s focus now is on interconnecting with other devices – like putting LG fridges into energy-saving mode when no-one is home, and making Philips Hue bulbs flash red if smoke or carbon monoxide is detected.
Fadell said that he has no official involvement in Google’s driverless car project, but had “some thoughts” about the technology and has discussions with the team “all the time.” He viewed persuading consumers of the car’s safety as the top priority to have it gain acceptance.
He also complimented Apple on the design of the Watch – though said that Apple too was at a stage where it was still learning about wearables.
I think they did a tremendous job on the hardware components of it. They are trying many different things with that platform – some are going to be great, and some are not.
The full interview is worth watching.