Apple reportedly has pulled the Nest smart thermostat from both its online and brick-and-mortar stores, possibly paving the way for its own line of smart home appliances. The thermostat disappeared from Apple’s product offerings earlier this month.
Apple’s stores now are selling the Ecobee 3, a thermostat that works with Apple’s HomeKit, an Internet of Things platform that’s part of iOS. HomeKit allows users to control devices in the home via an iPhone or iPad. The newly launched Ecobee 3 retails for US$249.
This is not the first time Apple has pulled rival products. It stopped selling devices from Jawbone and Nike ahead of its launch of the Apple Watch.
However, it seemed that Apple’s partnership with Nest was fairly solid, due largely to the fact that Nest CEO Tony Fadell helped develop Apple’s iPod. Nest’s staff includes many other former Apple employees, and there once was speculation that Apple might acquire the startup.
However, Nest was snapped up by Google for $3.2 billion early last year. That could have created a crack in the Apple-Nest relationship, which apparently has now fractured. It’s not clear how big a rift there might be between the companies, however.
The Nest thermostat is still on sale in Apple retail outlets in the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and the Nest camera and smoke alarm could find their way to Apple stores in the near future.
“Apple is a valued partner to Nest, and our new products will be available in Apple in the coming weeks,” Nest Labs spokesperson Ivy Choi told the E-Commerce Times.
Apple’s Home Play
The connection between Nest and Apple likely is overshadowed by the fact that the former is now owned by Apple’s main rival in the mobile phone operating system space. With Google owning Nest, it likely was only a matter of time before Apple opted to remove Nest products.
“I’m actually surprised that Apple continued to feature Nest, considering the bad blood between Apple and Google,” said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
“This signals that products compatible with Apple’s HomeKit are coming soon, and Apple wants to focus on [its] HomeKit home automation products,” Krewell told the E-Commerce Times.
Nest’s reassurances that its products will be back in Apple stores could be an effort to downplay the seriousness of the rift.
“Google ownership of Nest, and Apple’s own ambitions both have something to do with Nest being removed from the Apple stores,” observed Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
“Knowing Apple, I would not expect a return of Nest to the stores once it is pulled,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Apple does not need Nest to pull people into its stores or to sell its other products.”
Apple and Nest already are taking different approaches to the home automation ecosystem, but the key takeaway is that they are two different systems that likely will remain incompatible, for the most part.
“Nest and Apple have different and competing [home automation] strategies, and Apple’s HomeKit products have very stringent security requirements and testing, which has slowed the introduction of products,” explained Krewell.
“The end products will be better,” he continued.
Although Apple’s strict requirements mean that those products will be more expensive, they also will be more secure against hacking, Krewell pointed out. “From a technology standpoint, Nest positions its thermostats as a hub to connect other smart devices, while Apple will have its own hub, rumored to be the new Apple TV box.”
The result will be multiple ecosystems, where the battle lines once again could be drawn between Apple and Google.
“We are at the beginning of this,” said Susan Schreiner, principal analyst for C4 Trends.
“We are already seeing a push by Apple to build its own ecosystem, and Apple doesn’t want to risk losing it by letting the competition get a foothold,” she told the E-Commerce Times.
1st Steps Toward Home Automation
Just as Apple and other companies have battled for control of the living room through various products, including set-top boxes, they could square off in a battle for control of the smart home of the future. Google and Apple are now taking the first steps.
“There will be an onslaught of devices based around home automation, and Apple is clearly looking to support those that are based on its HomeKit automation technology,” Schreiner said. “Ecobee is HomeKit-compatible, which is why it has won favor over the Nest product.”
However, other companies appear to be hedging their bets rather than choosing between Apple and Google.
“The entire IoT space will change drastically before it takes off,” McGregor remarked.
“Right now, the IoT space, especially the smart home segment, is filled with startups, most of which really don’t know what they are doing when it comes to proving data security and cloud services,” he added.
“Eventually, only a few startups and a few of the established companies that manage to get their act together will remain and offer robust products with integrated services,” McGregor predicted. “Apple and Google are both likely candidates — and any place these two companies go, you are going to have a showdown.”