Two of my favorite connected home devices (that's a really unsexy description) haven't changed much since I bought them, though they remain just as useful as the day they were first turned on. My second-gen Nest Thermostat and a couple of Sonos speakers (a Play 1 and a Play 5) get used every single day, are 100 percent reliable — and, darn it, both are beautifully designed products.
And, of course, I want more from them.
OK, maybe I don't necessarily want more from each of these devices. Sonos gets new functionality every now and then through software updates, as does Nest. And generally speaking they haven't broken anything in the process. (And that Nest updates in the background without me having to do anything is certainly a plus.)
But recent stories about unrest at both of those companies — Sonos with layoffs and the damning piece on the turmoil inside Nest — is cause for concern. These are high-quality products from companies that aren't in the midst of a race to the bottom. But we haven't seen anything truly new from either of them in a long, long time. Sure, Nest has tweaked its thermostat and smoke detector, and it bought (and repackaged) Dropcam. But that's it. When Google bought Nest virtually everyone who cares about such things went to work trying to guess what their Next Big Thing would be.
Instead, we've seen nothing.
Sonos has some great speakers and the easiest wireless integration I've ever seen. Cast-enabled speakers (like the LG Music Flow I reviewed) come close, but Sonos speakers generally look better, have more reliable connections and the easiest setup I've come across.
I'm certainly not looking down on reliability. And buried at the bottom of the Sonos CEO's blog post announcing the layoffs was the realization that the Amazon Echo is exactly as good as we've all been saying, and that it caught everyone in this space with their pants down.
Alexa/Echo is the first product to really showcase the power of voice control in the home. Its popularity with consumers will accelerate innovation across the entire industry. What is novel today will become standard tomorrow. Here again, Sonos is taking the long view in how best to bring voice-enabled music experiences into the home. Voice is a big change for us, so we'll invest what's required to bring it to market in a wonderful way.
Sonos almost certainly won't be able to do that without partnering with someone. Nest won't be long for the Google (ahem, Alphabet) world if it doesn't start making new things — we know all too well what happens to beloved products that aren't making any money for Mountain View.
For now, I'm enjoying the stagnation. But we need to see some signs of life sometime soon.
A few other thoughts on things ...
- I'm in agreement with CNET's Tim Stevens on the Tesla Model 3 event. I don't think we're seeing the birth of the next Apple — but rather some sort of proto-Apple. Something far different, but as important.
- If you haven't watched the event yet, you should. It's crazy how short it was, how the journalists there only got a brief ride, and weren't even allowed to use real cameras.
- Yeah, a plopped down $1,000 I don't actually have to get on the registration list. Assuming my number comes up sometime in 2018, that'll be right around the time my 2005 Civic is due for retirement anyway. (I don't drive a whole lot, though, so I might still be able to get a few bucks for it.)
- And, yeah, getting that excited and spending money on something that doesn't actually exist yet and has a somewhat unknown price is somewhat foolish. But that's also the point. You invest in the future. Does anyone disagree that getting off fossil fuels isn't the future?
- And I love the idea of doing things outside the traditional car deal system.
- By the way: TeslaCentral.com.
- Here's what's up with the "ZOMG the LG G5 isn't really metal!!!" noise that's going around. Short version is LG's marketing toed the line more than usual, and PR was too secretive about what this "advanced micro anodizing" stuff was all about. We'd asked for a better definition of that way back at our MWC briefing before the phone was even announced — and no one was talking.
- That said, if you're going to go through the trouble of scratching stuff off the back of the phone and making a ZOMG video about it, you also need to actually talk to the company before hitting "publish." That's not being a company shill — it's responsible journalism. And very basic journalism at that.
- In any event, it doesn't change what the G5 feels like. And it doesn't feel like metal. Our full review will come later this week.
- This 14-inch Acer Chromebook looks very, very interesting. I've been looking for something decent for my kids.
- Goodbye, Internet. Hello, internet.
- I suppose my tune would changed if I got bit by Google's "Drop the Mic" April Fools' thing (and I never actually saw the real implementation, nor did I think it was particularly funny), but I can't help but think folks are getting their panties in a bunch. I mean, it's not like they force-fed us a mediocre U2 album. Good humans do dumb things sometimes. It'll be OK.
- Some really thoughtful questions sent in for our recent all-Q&A podcast. That was fun. Will definitely do it again sometime.
That's it for this week. See y'all Monday.
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