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Google’s smart-home strategy: Doubling down on the Nest brand

Google’s smart-home strategy: Doubling down on the Nest brand
[Photo: courtesy of Google]

Fifteen months ago, Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh took charge of Nest, the smart-home pioneer that was formerly an independent arm of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. But while Nest is part of Google, that doesn’t mean that the brand is less important. At Google’s I/O conference, Osterloh just announced that Nest will be Google’s smart-home brand henceforth.

The first big result of this shift is the Nest Hub Max, a 10″ smart display that offers hands-free access to the Google Assistant and integration with services such as Google Photos. Unlike last year’s Google Home Hub (which is now the Nest Hub and available at a lower new price of $129), the $229 Nest Hub Max has a camera. It can be used for video calls (via Google’s Duo service) and security (acting like a Nest Cam with a screen). But it can also use facial recognition to recognize each member of your family and customize the information it shows on its screen.

Whether they’re from Google or Amazon or someone else, always-connected devices with cameras and microphones have to contend with privacy concerns. Google acknowledged that by emphasizing that it’s easy to disable the camera and microphones altogether; in fact there’s a physical off switch. You can also turn off the facial recognition if the idea of a screen keeping tabs on who’s looking at it strikes you as creepy.

Google says that the Nest Hub Max will ship later this summer. During the keynote, it didn’t explicitly spell out how existing smart-home products such as Google Home speakers will be branded henceforth. It also didn’t mention any changes to the privacy policies associated with its various products—a concern of some Nest fans from the moment Google acquired the company in 2014.

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