IN A NOT-ENTIRELY-UNEXPECTED MOVE, Google has announced that it is to roll its smart home efforts, including Google Home and Nest into a single brand dubbed 'Google Nest'.
The news represents the next logical step after Nest was brought into the fold of Google Home devices, alongside Google Home and Chromecast, after previously acting as an independent subsidiary of Alphabet.
It also brings the Nest story full circle, from acquisition by Google in 2014, to demerging into the Alphabet umbrella in 2015, to reabsorption by Google in 2018. The merger of the two brands marks the end of Nest Labs as a separate marque, ending the story which began in 2011 with the original Nest Learning Thermostat.
As if to really emphasise what the new joint company is capable of, the first product to bare the new branding was announced, the much-leaked Google Nest Hub Max.
The gadget is the company's second smart display device, following on from last year's Google Home Hub. It's effectively a bigger sibling, offering an almost identical design in a larger 10in case, but the biggest change is the addition of a camera.
Unlike the original which Google deliberately avoided adding a camera to, in part so people wouldn't be scared to have one in the bedroom, this one has a dual-function 12MP camera. As well as being used for video calling, facial identification and even some rather nifty object tracking to ensure you're always in frame, this camera doubles as a Nest security camera too, keeping sentry while you're out and about.
12MP is pretty significant as that's a better camera than the top-of-the-range Nest IQ standalone cameras. The indoor version of that costs a not-insignificant £269 at time of writing.
There's souped-up sound on the Max too, with stereo speakers at the base of the unit. The ambient light sensors remain, making the screen blend more seamlessly into its surroundings by dynamically adjusting light and contrast.
The camera and microphone can both be switched off, which we're told is in direct response to customer feedback, and that customers should be aware of all the sensors aboard, a direct reference to the revelation that the Nest Secure, the company's alarm system, currently only available in the USA, included a microphone that didn't appear anywhere in the specs or documentation.
The camera has an extra function too - it can be used to trigger hand gestures - ideal if you're using the device in the kitchen with your hands covered in self-raising flour.
As you'd expect, Google Assistant is included, as is full Chromecast support, alongside WiFi and Bluetooth. The combination will make sure that products work seamlessly with Works with Google and Works with Nest products.
Google has confirmed that new customers who don't need the optional Nest Aware subscription option will be able to set up and run their Google Nest devices using the Google Home app, using just your Google account credentials.
Existing customers, or those that want the optional extras will still need to use the Nest app for the foreseeable, though it's likely that the Nest app will be depreciated once there is feature parity.
There are no plans to rebrand existing products (Google Home, Home Mini, Home Max, Home Hub, NestCam IQ, Nest Aware etc) but as they are superseded, the replacements will have the new Google Nest branding.
The Google Nest Hub Max goes on sale in July at a not entirely unpleasant £219. Existing products will be fully compatible with both the existing Nest and Google infrastructures.
Hardware announcements at Google I/O are a relatively rare thing, with the previous preference having been for a separate event in the Autumn. But with the simultaneous arrival of the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL which couldn't wait, lest it be overshadowed by the Pixel 4, and the Google-Nest coupling being in part a software merger, it seems that the company has decided to have an extra hardware splurge in 2019. μ
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