Nest is a Silicon Valley company that makes a widely praised home thermostat — I wrote about the device last year. Google acquired the company in 2014. And not long after that, Nest acquired a company called Revolv that sold a hub allowing customers to electronically control the lights in their homes.
Nest wasn't really interested in Revolv's hub, though. Instead, it wanted to get its hands on Revolv's talented engineers and reassign them work on other Nest projects. Revolv stopped selling its hub at the time of the acquisition in October 2014.
Now Arlo Gilbert notes an announcement on Revolv's home page: "As of May 15, 2016, Revolv service will no longer be available. The Revolv app won’t open and the hub won’t work."
Nest isn't just going to stop providing software updates or security fixes for the Revolv hub. It's going to deliberately make these devices totally useless. If you made the mistake of buying a Revolv hub to control lights in your house, you're going to have to buy a replacement device or else you'll no longer be able to control your lights from your smartphone, and — depending on how things are set up — you might not be able to turn them on at all.
Why Nest is breaking the Revolv hub
It's not hard to guess why Nest would have done this. Nest doesn't want to continue spending money to support a doomed product. And if it had simply stopped supporting Revolv devices, there was a danger that hackers could have found security flaws in the Revolv software and hacked into devices in people's homes. So Nest apparently concluded that the safest approach was to make Revolv devices stop working altogether.
"Revolv was a great first step toward the connected home, but we believe that Works with Nest is a better solution and are allocating resources toward that program," a Nest spokesperson told the Verge.
This might be a sensible business decision. But it's also unfair to Revolv customers. More importantly, it's contrary to Revolv's own promises. Before it was acquired by Nest, Revolv explicitly said that customers would enjoy lifetime service, as this screenshot from the Revolv website in 2014 makes clear:
Of course, it might be a waste of resources for Nest to support a product that only a small number of people are using. But if there aren't many users left, that means it wouldn't cost Nest very much to compensate the few remaining users — either by refunding the purchase price or offering to send users a similar product. Instead, Nest appears to be simply leaving them out of luck.
This is going to be an increasingly important problem in the coming decades. More and more devices in our homes are going to be connected to the internet, and over time some manufacturers are going to become unwilling or unable to support them. Right now, there's no generally accepted norm about the most appropriate way to end support for internet-connected devices. And if it's mishandled, it will open people's homes up to security threats.
That makes it all the more important for Nest to set a good example. Abruptly disabling a perfectly functional product after just a couple of years doesn't do that.