How Tony ‘Father of the iPod’ Fadell reinvented the thermostat with Nest – and what’s coming next

“In 2007, Tony Fadell believed he could see the future. He was an Apple executive who had created the iPod and was a leading figure on the team that had worked on the iPhone, which the company was about to launch,” Tom Simonite reports for MIT Technology Review. “He knew people would soon form attachments to the Internet-connected computers they carried in their pockets, and he kept thinking about that as he started another major project: building an energy-efficient dream home near Lake Tahoe.”

“‘I said, ‘How do I design this home when the primary interface to my world is the thing in my pocket?” says Fadell. He baffled architects with demands that the home’s every feature, from the TV to the electricity supply, be ready for a world in which the Internet and mobile apps made many services more responsive,” Simonite reports. “When it came to choosing a programmable thermostat for his expensive eco-friendly heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, Fadell blew a gasket: ‘They were 500 bucks a pop, and they were horrible and doing nothing and brain-dead. And I was like, ‘Wait a second, I’ll design my own.””

Advertisement: Nest – Learning Thermostat 2nd Generation – Stainless-Steel

Simonite reports, “Fadell’s instincts turned out to be correct. Nest’s first model, a striking stainless-steel-ringed disc with a circular display, went on sale in October 2011 to widespread acclaim. The HVAC industry, a sector as unexciting as the thermostats it sold, was astonished by the fresh ideas behind the device, which learned from its owners’ behavior and could be controlled with a polished mobile app. The company released a second, more advanced thermostat in October 2012, and says sales of the two models have been brisk… Now the company is preparing to release another product. Details are scarce, but it seems that Fadell’s thermostat epiphany has launched a technological campaign that will make every part of your home more intelligent.”

Much more in the full article here.

Related articles:
‘Father of the iPod’ Tony Fadell on Apple’s unique design process (with video) – January 19, 2013
Tony Fadell: Scott Forstall ‘got what he deserved’ – November 29, 2012


  1. Apple should bring this guy back on the Board… now that he has his own company… He obviously has a design gene in him.. seemingly > that former head of iOS….

    1. Honeywell is suing Nest, Honeywell is throwing a hissy fit, Nest can settle or else, besides Fadell wanted to use Pixo OS for the iPhone how does he help Apple, the Nest is a very nice product but if Honeywell changes the wiring or makes their systems incompatible they are done. Honeywell is treating the Nest like end of days?

  2. This is the quintessential story I was describing the other day when talking about the ebb and flow of engineering talent under Steve Job’s personality versus Tim Cook’s.

    Remember the MP3 player product space? Boring. Crappy. Useful. Desirable. Apple reinvented it.

    Remember the smartphone product space? Pretty boring. Crappy hardware and software. Useful. Desirable. Apple reinvented it.

    Remember the tablet product space? Indistinguishable from most laptops. Crappy hardware and software. Useful. Desirable. Apple reinvented it.

    This is what Apple does.

    Does that sound like the watch product space to you? Not me.

    Does that sound like the TV product space to you? Not me, but with a caveat: I, too, have four remotes and at least one non-teenager who won’t touch the things.

    Tony left reportedly because Steve passed him over.

    Times are different at Apple than they were in 2001. With the cash available to them now, Tim can set up skunk works projects that look to reinvent desirable, boring and crappy product spaces.

    1. He might be a nice addition to the crew at Apple. But something tells me that like most people, he enjoys his independence. So unless he needs the money I doubt that he would ever return. If his thermostat is selling well he will probably expand a lineup of products from there. I would imagine he would like to make it on his own rather then with Apple’s help. Controlling a homes utilities and function is nothing new but perhaps he will be able to put some bang into it? It’s been pretty boring so far. He obviously is a very talented man.

      1. Tony’s in exactly the right arena. Home automation and energy efficiency is the next big industry just crying out for an Apple-like approach, and Tony started it with Nest thermostats.

        I have three in my home, and they’re wonderful. Anyone can install them, they look great on the wall, and are super simple to use. Mine replaced three Honeywell programmable thermostats that came with almost 1/2 ” thick instruction manuals, and I still couldn’t figure out how to change the settings to my liking.

        I’m VERY interested to see what Nest has coming up next.

        1. I saw the Nest demonstrated on a recent episode of This Old House and thought was extraordinary. We have a Honeywell $39 thermostat… which we don’t even have programmed as it’s ridiculously complex despite being the simplest unit available. I would love to have a Nest in my home, but the cost is not justifiable to my wife… who figures the cheaper then better and what more do you need than to turn the temp up when it’s cold and down when it’s hot.

          Speaking of Honeywell, any idea how their lawsuit against Nest went… or is it still going on?

        2. I am a custom home builder in Carmel, Ca.. Most of my projects are ” second homes” for people. I now give clients a Nest when their home is finished.
          Driving down from the Bay Area, they can pre heat the house and it will shut down when they have left.

  3. I will never tire to kill this cliche: Fadell was not “father”, he was “co-father” (or “mother” or whatever — this is stupid language anyway ;))). It was Jobs who wanted to make conceptually new music player, he just happened to like some great Fidell’s hardware ideas.

    1. The oven and stove could be improved with an integrated scale and recipe book function to cook our food easily. A tie-in with the refrigerator and pantry would be nice too so that we can know what ingredients we have and create grocery lists.

      1. The refrigerator and cabinets will order supplies from the grocery store when they run low. Somebody’s working on that now. You know they are. In fact, I believe there are smart appliances out there now that do something fantastic like that. Sort of.

  4. Griddle 1500 W 20 minutes 500 Watts. For sleeping, most motorhomes
    employ a bed on the cab section, chairs that fold into beds, bunkbeds or simply a home that converts right into a bed.
    We’re all interdependent and reliant on each other.

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