Alphabet’s smart home brand Nest expands to Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain

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As Amazon, Apple and others tee up smart home strategies with apps, hubs and new devices, Google is also turning up the temperature, so to speak, on its own ambitions. Today, Nest — the smart home business that Google acquired for $3.2 billion a few years ago — announced at DLD in Munich that it would be expanding sales of its thermostat, camera and smoke alarm products in four more countries in Europe — Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain.

Nest Learning Thermostat’s will retail for €249. The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm will see for €119. The Nest Cam Indoor will cost €199; and the Nest Cam Outdoor will sell for €199, all including taxes. Pre-orders start today with a targeted delivery date of mid-February, the company said.

The expansion is a long time coming for Nest, whose smart thermostats, cameras and smoke alarms are used in some 190 countries, but (up to now) have been only sold and supported officially in seven. (And even that rollout has been slow: the last country expansion, also in Europe, happened in September 2014.)

Lionel Paillet, Nest’s GM for Europe, explained that the delay was deliberate — not the result of any clouds or controversy related to Google’s ownership.

(There is some backstory here: Nest has been the subject of some controversy over what, exactly, its future would be as part of the search and Android giant as it also looked to make its own-branded moves into the area of the connected home, specifically via its Google Home hub that competes with the Echo from Amazon. More immediately, in Germany, after the Google acquisition, Nest was targeted by German activists who created a spoof site that acted as a criticism of Google’s privacy policies. The site was taken down after legal threats.)

“The main reason for waiting to launch is that we’ve been busy to bring scale to business,” Paillet said in an interview. “Contrary to some launching everything everywhere and hoping for the best, we had a specific strategy. Several years into our UK and Netherlands businesses, for example, we’ve been selling extremely well and are now in millions of homes globally, growing 50% year-on-year. The smart home is still a new concept, and we really wanted to get that base before going to our next countries.”

Despite this, Paillet does not have details on what the roadmap will be for future launches, including when we can expect to see Nest’s first official launches in Asia.

Matt Rogers, the co-founder of Nest who is the company’s head of product, said that he thinks the smart home market is still “three to five years” away from being more ubiquitous and unified.

Part of the challenge in adding the most recent four countries was to make sure that the products could be localised correctly. In the case of Germany, for example, there was not only making sure that voice recognition worked correctly in German, but that the hardware itself would be usable in the country. The screws for the smoke detectors, he noted, had to be tested and adjusted to work on the materials typically used in ceilings in the country, since these devices cannot be mounted on walls in the country.

Although a group of Nest employees migrated out of Nest to work on Google’s bigger IoT platform last year, and co-founder Tony Fadell notably parted ways with the company, Paillet says that Nest will continue to develop as a business. He said that the Nest API has picked up 26,000 developers in the last two years and that there is no plans to retire Nest. “I think it’s looking great for Nest as a brand,” he said.

One key point is that while Google has been building Nest as an extension that will interoperate with whatever home hub you might have in place, be it Google’s own or the Echo from Amazon. “It’s about giving a choice to consumers,” Paillet said. Rogers added that Amazon Echo is actually the most popular integration for Nest today — no surprise considering that Echo has far and away been the most popular home hub to date.

As with previous launches, there are several local partners being named at the same time as the new market expansions. In Germany and Austria, Nest Protect smoke + carbon monoxide alarm, Nest Cam Indoor, and Nest Cam Outdoor will be sold through Amazon, Media Markt and Conrad. The Nest Learning Thermostat will be available later this year.

In Italy, Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Cam Indoor, and Nest Cam Outdoor is available from Amazon, Media World and ePrice for pre-order.

In Spain, Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Cam Indoor, and Nest Cam Outdoor is available from Amazon, Media Markt and El Corte Inglés for pre-order from today.

Other partners that will help with installations include Baxi in Spain; Engie Italy and Wind Tre in Italy; and the Generali Group via CosmosDirekt in Germany.

Updated with more detail from Roger’s interview at DLD.