- That "Larry Page's Google" is one of action
- That the entire "Internet of things" space is now validated
- That this is a lot of money, which makes it important
- That Google is going to know even more about you
- That Apple (AAPL) "missed out," which suggests that Tim Cook is neither a man of action nor vision and that Apple is "slower" in comparison to Google
If you believe that Nest is an important company -- and it certainly appears to have momentum in the consumer home automation space with increased use of its products -- then the question is, why wasn't Apple "in the mix" to buy it, as Liz Gannes wondered?
If Tony Fadell sold his company to Google without talking to other serious suitors, then he wasn't serving the best interests of his shareholders. Wouldn't it at least be worth Tony's or Frank Quattrone's (or whoever Tony used as an intermediary) time to beat the bushes and figure out if there were other interested parties? Wouldn't $3.8 billion or $4.3 billion have been a better price than $3.2 billion?
If you assume Fadell did his fiduciary duty by shopping his company to others, then why would Apple not be in the mix?
Some might say, "Well, Google must have made a high offer that was too good to pass up." Of course, $3.2 billion is a huge return for all of Nest's investors. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Kleiner Perkins saw its investment increase "twenty-fold."
But, again, any Nest investor is going to want more. I'm sure they were all excited to hear about the Google offer, but it would have taken them about two seconds for them to inquire about competing bids.
Now, Google Ventures was a big Nest investor and they might have played a role in selling the Nest M&A idea to Larry Page and others on the Leadership Team. Rich Miner and the Google Ventures team might have been indifferent on whether Nest got a higher offer or not but Shasta Ventures and Kleiner Perkins would not have been shrinking violets on this issue.
So, we come back to the question: If Gannes is correct -- and there's no reason to believe she's not -- that Apple wasn't in the mix now, why would that be?
The only plausible answer I can think of is Apple was very familiar with Nest, founded in 2010, and made the internal decision a while ago that it could develop a better product for Apple's purposes than bolt on the Nest hardware and software.
The Apple critics will decry this as hubris and a lack of vision. They will say that Apple neglected to use its cash strategically and let an important company get into the hands of a fierce rival.
It's too soon to pass judgment on Apple yet.
Last year, a number of Apple critics were claiming Apple was losing ground in not pushing out a larger form-factor iPhone. A year later, we're expecting such a phone in a matter of months. It appears that Apple was well aware of the strategic direction it wanted to go and proceeded in a judicious manner without pushing out some inferior product too soon just to quell the critics.
On the other hand, it sure seems like Apple missed out on an opportunity to make a bid for Netflix (NFLX) last year when it was trading in the $50s. Apple likely believed that Apple has all the content relationships it requires, so why should it feel a need to bid on another brand? However, Netflix's brand is meaningful and likely could have been a valuable addition to Apple's content library, especially at such a depressed price. Given its cash, why wouldn't have Apple done such a deal?
Maybe a year or two from now Apple will again look smart for passing on Netflix in the face of more competition from Amazon (AMZN) or others (including Apple itself). If that plays out, avoiding the distraction of integrating Netflix will again make Apple appear wise.
My point is that snap judgments of Apple being too plodding and lacking vision are usually unfair and sometimes look foolish a few months in the future.
I believe that Apple must have its own products similar to (or, in its view, far superior to) Nest that it plans to introduce. Maybe it will be later this year or maybe it won't be until 2015 or later.
In the future, maybe we will all pass judgment that Tim Cook is an idiot after all. I think that's unlikely, however.
At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.