Consumers who purchased the smart-home hub from Google subsidiary Nest's Revolv will find themselves the frustrated owners of a useless piece of hardware, or "brick" after May 15.
That's when, Revolv, a Colorado-based company, which Nest acquired in 2014, will formally shut down all services. The company's $299 hub, purchased by an unknown (but likely small) number of consumers will stop working altogether after that date.
"As of May 15, 2016, Revolv service will no longer be available," Revolv founders Tim Enwall and Mike Soucie announced in a brief note on the company's Website. "The Revolv app won't open and the hub won't work."
The two executives explained their decision as one of the outcomes of Revolv's integration with Nest. Since its acquisition, Revolv's technology has been fully integrated with Nest's Works with Nest platform. "Now Works with Nest is turning into something more secure, more useful and just flat-out better than anything Revolv created," Enwall and Soucie said. As a result, Revolv will focus its resources solely on the Works with Nest platform while shutting down the Revolv product, they said.
Revolv's one-year warranty against defects in material and workmanship has ended on all of the products that the company has shipped. So consumers will not be able to make any warranty claims against the company.
Nest's (and by extension Google's) decision to brick Revolv's smart-home hub comes about two and a half years after the product debuted as a device for controlling multiple smart-home products. Featuring seven built-in radios for communicating with other home automation devices, the product first became available for preorder in August 2013, but it is not clear how many were sold.
The incident is a harbinger of the kind of issues consumers are likely to run into as more devices and gadgets become part of the Internet of things and depend on cloud services for their core functionality. Unlike TVs, fridges and other consumer items, Revolv's hub was never designed as a stand-alone product. So by shutting down the product's associated cloud service, the hub itself becomes useless.
"During the past couple of decades, the tech industry has essentially rewritten the rule book on what consumers can and should expect from technology vendors and products," said Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT. "During that time, thousands of products have been launched and abandoned, and hundreds of companies have failed or been acquired, leaving disappointed customers little recourse," he said.
In fact, compared to other product terminations, Google's management of Revolv's smart Hub actually seems fairly enlightened, he said.
"The company appears to have maintained support of its products in the field through or beyond the end of their 12-month warranty, and they're providing guidance on their plans and what customers can expect," King said.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, described Google's decision regarding Revolv as consistent with its actions in the past, when it has pulled the plug on numerous products. "Google has been oddly insensitive to the effect of canceling products," Gottheil said, pointing to technologies like Google Notebook and Reader. "But all of these were free. It's worse when people buy a product, expecting it to continue functioning."
Decisions like this are unlikely to hurt consumer adoption of Google's free products, he said. "But I do believe it makes it more difficult for Google to get businesses to commit to its products and services."