Google eager to move into living rooms with Google Home

Developers are leaving the Nest to strike new ground with Google's voice-activated home appliance.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File
The Google logo is displayed outside Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

On the verge of releasing Google Home, a voice-activated speaker marketed as a kind of personal assistant for the home, Google parent company Alphabet is changing up its development teams.

Alphabet will shift developers who work on the platform for Nest, a subsidiary that makes Internet-connected thermostats and smoke detectors, onto a group dedicated to the development of Google Home, reported Fortune on Tuesday. The latter team will be led by Hiroshi Lockheimer, a longtime Google exec and current senior vice president of Android who is assuming work on "living room" products.

The decision seems to underscore the importance of Google Home to the software giant. The product's release will come well over two years after that of its competitor product, Amazon Echo, a personal assistant technology that lends a kind of space-age futurity to users’ homes, making household appliances responsive to spoken commands.

In May, Forrester Research analyst Julie A. Ask told The New York Times that competitors like Amazon, Facebook, and Apple had made significant forays in the development of smart-home products.

"Google has seemingly let the competition catch up – level the playing field, even. It's all the more critical that they do well here, given earlier misses on instant messaging and social media," she said then.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported in March, market-research surveys show that the concept of such devices tends to please the public, although they may prefer them for circumscribed purposes.

The concept of connecting a variety of appliances, from coffeemakers to TVs, to create a unified “smart home” is gradually gaining in popularity. Some 36 percent of consumers in a recent poll by the Nielsen affiliated group The Demand Institute said they were “excited” to incorporate more of the technology in their homes, while 34 percent were neutral....

The research firm Gartner predicted last year that 5.5 million new Internet of Things devices could be connected every day in 2016. However, a survey by Internet of Things company iControl Networks shows many consumers are most interested in automation primarily for security reasons.

Devices like home monitoring cameras, self-adjusting thermostats, remote door locks, and adjustable outdoor lighting remain most popular.

It's unclear how many employees might be shifting off of Nest's payroll and onto that of an enlarged Google Home team. The Verge places the number as being in the dozens. But apart from relieving a bit of financial pressure on Nest, the move may signal the primacy of Android in Google's future plans, following an unwieldy acquisition of hardware-focused Nest, noted Business Insider.

"Putting the Nest programmers into the Android fold is another signal that the era of multiple operating systems is over for Google, and Android is going to be the common platform for everything – smartphones, tablets, thermostats, laptops, everything," it wrote.

Google's competitor, meanwhile, is preparing to announce greater intra-platform connectedness. On Tuesday, the Verge reported that Echo will be compatible with Sonos speakers beginning in 2017.

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