Google now owns a little piece of Apple.
Today, the web giant announced that it’s spending $3.2 billion to acquire Nest, a successful home hardware tech startup founded by Tony Fadell, one of the fathers of the Apple iPod.
Today, Nest makes internet-connected thermostats and fire detectors, but the plan is to extend its reach even further into the home. In a Google blog post, Fadell said that, with Google’s support, “Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.”
The announcement sparked much discussion across the web, as many joked about Google+ integration with Nest’s products and Google Ads showing up when you turn off your smoke alarm. But according to a statement Fadell delivered to TechCrunch, Nest will only use customer information for “providing and improving Nest’s products and services,” indicating it will not be used for Google’s larger advertising schemes.
That said, Google could certainly use Nest data to hone its online ads and other web services, changing its behavior according to when you’re at home and even where you happen to be in your home. The company’s Google Now service is already privy to such information.
Four years have passed since Google kingpin Eric Schmidt resigned from the Apple board of directors, signaling the start of what you might call a cold war between the two tech giants.
Or perhaps cold is the wrong word.
Six months after Schmidt left Apple’s board, Steve Jobs laid into Google during an Apple town hall meeting, crying foul over Android’s challenge to the iPhone and recasting the search giant’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto as “bullshit.” Throughout 2010 and into 2011, the two companies publicly sparred over whose smartphone technology was the most “open” and whose would ultimately make life easier for humankind. Then, in 2012, Apple summarily removed Google Maps and YouTube from the iPhone, determined to reduce its dependance on the company that so quickly usurped its command of the mobile market.
Schmidt now says there’s detente between the two, but even if that’s true, it didn’t come soon enough to avoid a very real divorce of technologies. Until recently, the two companies shared one of the world’s most important open source software projects — WebKit, the basis for Apple’s Safari browser and Google’s Chrome — but then, in April, that marriage ended too. Once so close, Apple and Google are now as far apart as anyone in the high-stakes tech game.
And yet, there’s one thing they still have in common, one last piece of technological brilliance they freely share with each another.
Chances are, you’ve never heard of it. But nowadays, it’s an integral part every new Apple iPhone — and every new Android phone. It’s not an app or a web service or some sort of hardware contraption. It’s more important than that. It’s a tool that’s changing the way we build and run computer software — any computer software.
Google’s insertion of unsolicited ads directly into inboxes is made possible, paradoxically, by its success in otherwise eliminating them. Google has essentially conquered spam, which was once predicted to be the death of e-mail: less than one per cent of all spam in Gmail reaches an inbox. It could not stuff its own ads in the box if it had not already cleared the space.Matt Buchanan on integrated ads in Gmail’s redesigned inbox: http://nyr.kr/1aJaw2Y (via newyorker)
Not much happens in Geraldine, a small farming community in the interior of the South Island of New Zealand, about 85 miles from Christchurch. So when Hayden MacKenzie, a fourth-generation farmer there, picked up the phone last Tuesday and got a request to participate in a secret project—one that he wouldn’t even learn about until he signed a vow of silence—he and his wife Anna figured that they’d take a shot. That evening, two men showed up at his cozy farmhouse. They bore a peculiar red device, a sphere slightly bigger than a volleyball perched on a short collar, and attached it to his roof. Then they left.
Only when the men returned the next day did they reveal what they were up to. Inside the red ball was an antenna that would give the MacKenzies Internet access. It was custom-designed to communicate with a similar antenna that would be floating by in the stratosphere, over 60,000 feet above sea level. On a solar-powered balloon.
Oh, and the men work for Google.
The soft, froggy voice startled me. I turned around to face an approaching figure. It was Larry Page, naked, save for a pair of eyeglasses.
“Welcome to Google Island. I hope my nudity doesn’t bother you. We’re completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It’s something I learned at Burning Man,” he said. “Here, drink this. You’re slightly dehydrated, and your blood sugar is low. This is a blend of water, electrolytes, and glucose.”
I was taken aback. “How did you…” I began, but he was already answering me before I could finish my question.
“As soon as you hit Google’s territorial waters, you came under our jurisdiction, our terms of service. Our laws–or lack thereof–apply here. By boarding our self-driving boat you granted us the right to all feedback you provide during your journey. This includes the chemical composition of your sweat. Remember when I said at I/O that maybe we should set aside some small part of the world where people could experiment freely and examine the effects? I wasn’t speaking theoretically. This place exists. We built it.”