For the last eighteen months, the tech world has been anxiously awaiting news of what iPod godfather Tony Fadell is up to. His staff has been sworn to secrecy since word got out he was leaving retirement to do something new. Despite reporters camping out in front of his office with cameras, the news somehow stayed a secret– no small feat in the ever-leaky land of Silicon Valley.
No doubt the anticipation raised expectations in fan boys’ minds that the next great entertainment or communication device was going to be unveiled by the former DJ who oversaw 18 versions of the iPod and the first three versions of the iPhone .
Fadell is well aware that those fan boys may be in for some confusion or some disappointment today. Because he’s announcing what finally got him to come out of retirement and start a new company: A desire to reinvent thermostats.
That’s not a moniker for some cutting edge game device– Fadell’s new company, Nest Labs, is bringing Apple-level design and cool to the those little boxes on the walls of a quarter of a billion US homes and offices that control the internal temperature. Why? Because all the ones on the market are ugly, they are too hard to use and they control a whopping 50% of the average American home’s energy budget. His goal is to take something we never think about and make it more than just sexy– he wants to make it a “beloved” object in the home.
Fadell got the idea designing his green home in Tahoe. He was shocked there wasn’t a single attractive thermostat on the market so he decided to build his own. The size of the market and the potential impact on the planet convinced him it was a great business. And if he didn’t do it, who would? The unit uses the guts of a smart phone and required someone who knows how to build drop-dead-easy user experiences.
When Fadell left Apple, he promised Steve Jobs he wouldn’t build a device to compete with what he’d done at Apple. Instead, he’s taking the design philosophy to an utterly different industry. Will consumers bite?
We sat down with Fadell for his first video interview about Nest last week. In this segment, he talks about why he feels this opportunity was too good to pass up. Stay tuned for part two of the interview, when Fadell will demo the Nest Learning Thermostat.