Honeywell vs. Nest, continued

Michael Giberson

Slate‘s technology columnist Farhad Manjoo examines Honeywell vs. Nest from a tech consumer’s point of view.

The Honeywell v. Nest lawsuit is being justifiably criticized as another black mark on our broken patent system. If Honeywell invented all these cool features, why didn’t it make something of them? …

Honeywell seems to have patented a bunch of great ideas in order to just sit on them. The sad thing is that if it tried, Honeywell seems capable of building a thermostat that’s every bit as wonderful as the Nest. From my testing, I found that Honeywell really does make great home heating and cooling equipment. If it competed in the marketplace rather than in the courts, I suspect it could really turn up the heat on Nest. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

When I compared the Nest and the Prestige, I found that feature for feature, Honeywell’s thermostat is more capable. …

On the other hand, you don’t need a one-page dossier, two installers, and an hour-and-a-half briefing to describe and install the Nest. That’s Honeywell’s greatest problem….

Manjoo concludes Honeywell has the technology, but not the consumer design nor the business model to get consumers clamoring for their product.

But Nest isn’t unstoppable. Honeywell has been in the thermostat business forever, and it’s got a lot of engineering and distribution advantages. It also, clearly, has a lot of innovative ideas. From what I’ve seen of its gear, Honeywell seems quite capable of creating a consumer-friendly version of the Prestige, one that works as easily and stylishly as the Nest. Now that Nest has paved the way, Honeywell would likely earn a lot of press coverage, too.

If I can summarize that last paragraph, he’s suggesting that rather than suing Nest for copying Honeywell technology, Honeywell ought to be copying some of Nest’s consumer-oriented design and marketing attitudes. (Fortunately for Honeywell, you can’t patent attitudes.)

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One thought on “Honeywell vs. Nest, continued

  1. What Manjoo does not say, though he implies as much, is that Honeywell could produce the Nest thermostat under a different name, based on its existing patents and patent applications, if it chose to do so. Perhaps Honeywell will do just that. Honeywell has produced several different lines of consumer-installable residential thermostats for decades.

    However, it is important to understand that consumer-installable thermostats, such as the Nest and Honeywell’s programmable thermostats, have very limited capabilities relative to the Honeywell Prestige and Carrier Infinity systems. While these more capable systems might not be as “cute” as the Nest, or as simple to install, they offer more comprehensive and effective system control features with the potential to improve system efficiency and effectiveness.

    Regardless, those who believe the US patent system is defective take significant financial risks by simply ignoring it and hoping it will just go away.

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