All of these, as well as the seven other robotics companies it acquired in the last 12 months and Motorola in 2011 have led to some speculation about what Google is trying to do.
To the untrained eye, the logic behind the acquisitions might not be immediately obvious but a deeper look and consideration of ongoing trends in the tech space might shed more light.
One phrase that is doing the rounds this year is “Hardware is the new software”. Many commentators are predicting that 2014 will see a surge in demand for intelligent hardware in the same way 2012 and 2013 saw a surge in demand for intelligent software.
According to Joi Ito of MIT Media Lab (last year): “hardware start-ups are looking like the software start-ups of the previous digital age. The whole ecosystem around hardware has increased in viability”.
It is also worth bearing in mind that hardware can also be a great way to sell software. As the Apple App Store and Android Market have shown us, getting people to pay for software andapps can be quite difficult. But with hardware, as games consoles and mobile phone sales have shown, the mentality is different. Consumers are happy to pay for hardware and developers are perhaps seeing a move towards hardware development as an opportunity to shift software if they can include the cost as part of the overall sale.
In addition, it’s important to consider the minds behind the acquired ventures and what they could potentially bring to Google. Nest Labs was founded by Tony Fadell, who was previously head of Apple’s music division until 2008. He is widely known as the ‘father of the iPod’ for his work on the first 18 generations of Apple’s music player. He was also involved in the hardware design of the original iPhone. Boston Dynamics was founded by a former MIT professor with the whole project overseen by Andy Rubin, the co-founder of Android.
With all this in mind, one thing is for sure, Google can no longer be referred to as simply a ‘search engine company’. I believe the search engine and social media offering will always be there, (doing most of the same things it is doing at present) but in the same vein, I am sure that Google will continue to introduce new products and services – just look at contact lenses it showed to the world last week. There’s no doubt the company has been very tight-lipped to date on what its plans are long term and why it is making all these acquisitions but one thing is for sure, this is just the beginning. With the money and brains available, maybe they might build Iron Man after all.