Greentech Media broke the Nest thermostat story in June of last year, much to the chagrin of the once-stealthy company and its lawyers. The company's "learning thermostat" received breathless and unconditional praise from most media outlets (though not Greentech Media).
In fact, we took a slightly contrarian view of the sleek $249 device.
Thermostats need to turn on in the morning and turn off at night and when we go away. They do not command the emotional connection we have with smart phones or tablets. It will be an enormous challenge for Nest to recreate the excitement of an entertainment product in a utilitarian device like a thermostat. And the public will not tolerate beta releases of a thermostat as they would for a piece of software.
Even as Nest Labs continues to confront user concerns and manufacturing ramp issues, it now has a lawsuit on its hands. Honeywell, the inventor of the eponymous "Honeywell Round," has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Nest and is seeking to prevent sales of the device, according to a press release from Honeywell. According to the release, the lawsuit "alleges infringement of seven Honeywell patents related to its thermostat technology."
"Competition is good and we welcome it, but we will not stand by while competitors, large or small, offer products that infringe on our intellectual property," said Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell Environmental and Combustion Controls, in the release.
We have asked Nest Labs to provide a comment on the lawsuit and have not yet received a response.
Nest CEO Tony Fadell, an Apple alum, has said that something better could be done in the thermostat space and users could have a better experience than that provided by the "Honeywell Round."
WiredPrairie has done an eight-part installation and performance review on the Nest thermostat. And although the reviewers like the aesthetics and packaging, there is a bit to be desired in terms of performance, quality control, and customer service at the thermostat startup. Nothing that can't be ironed out over time, but a less than auspicious start for the "sold-out" device. The reviewer and commenters are having trouble with the "learning" feature, which they attest is confused by varying habitation patterns and apparently "can't even adapt to simple schedules." The site says, "I strongly recommend you not buy a Nest thermostat. It’s an undone, expensive piece of hardware that while shiny and new, isn’t ready for the duties it claims to have mastered."
In May 2010, the team raised somewhere in the vicinity of $50 million to $80 million from Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Al Gore's Generation Investment Management, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Intertrust. Unfortunately for the startup, some of that funding will need to be directed towards this lawsuit.