The next step for Nest: Another camera

The smart-home device maker, a sibling to Google, unveils its first product since co-founder Tony Fadell departed. Surprise: It's another camera, this time for the outdoors.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
3 min read

Nest is trying to move forward. But maybe think of this as a sidestep.

First came months of scrutiny following a bombshell report that painted Alphabet's high-profile smart-home device company as dysfunctional. Then came the departure of co-founder Tony Fadell. Now Nest is releasing its first product in a year.

If you're hoping for some new mind-blowing internet-connected home appliance, you'll have to keep waiting. Instead, the company's sticking to what it knows, with a little bit of a twist. Meet the Nest Cam Outdoor.

The company sees it as a natural companion to the Nest Cam, the security camera it released last year, meant for indoor usage. (That product will be renamed as, you guessed it, the Nest Cam Indoor.) The new device, hitting shelves in the fall and selling for $200, looks like a small white spotlight and has sensors and software that can tell the difference between a human and a car or a cat.

"We're opening the fourth chapter in Nest life," Maxime Veron, Nest's director of hardware product marketing, said in an interview.

The first chapter, Veron said, was the company's very beginnings, from its primordial startup stage until its first product in 2011, a compelling little thermostat that connected to the internet. The second was the period after that: life as a young company in the spotlight and releasing the second product, the Nest Protect smoke detector. The third chapter was getting acquired by Google (now, like Nest, under the Alphabet umbrella) and buying internet camera startup Dropcam in 2014. This year marks the beginning of the post-Fadell era.


The Nest Cam Outdoor is the company's first new product since co-founder Tony Fadell departed last month.


But can Nest carry the same cachet it did when Fadell was in charge?

It's important to remember Fadell is a rare type of founder whose very existence is synonymous with the company's success -- consider the widely held belief that Steve Jobs was the lifeblood of Apple. Fadell made his first big mark on the tech industry as a disciple to Apple's mercurial co-founder, so some of that Steve Jobs magic was already in the cards. The tech industry considers Fadell the "Godfather of the iPod" and a key player in creating the iPhone. After leaving Apple and helping to found Nest, he was billed as a visionary leader.

While a Nest without Fadell might seem jarring, there's no shortage of criticism about him. Employees reportedly complained about the work culture in a report by The Information. After Nest acquired Dropcam, the startup's founder called his decision to sell a "mistake."

But that's all in the past, according to Nest. Well, mostly. The Nest Cam Outdoor was a Fadell project, the company said, and it was worked on for nearly a year. Nor is this likely to be the last product built under Fadell's guidance. The company has a "well-defined" two-year road map that Fadell developed, a Nest spokesman said.

Truly moving on from Fadell could still be a long time coming.

The new star in this "chapter" is Fadell's replacement, Marwan Fawaz, a former executive vice president of Motorola Mobility. He also served as head of Motorola Home, which makes products like dog training collars, internet-connected baby monitors and cable modems. "I can't wait to see what Marwan wants to bring to the table to make sure we get to the next level," Veron said.

Now it's up to Fawaz to decide if Nest will become a horror story or a fairy tale.