Light a candle and say a prayer because rapper, entrepreneur, and nightmare wearable designer will.i.am just bought Wink, one of the most popular smart home platforms, and well, what could possibly go wrong?
Acquisitions happen all the time, but this one is worrisome because will.i.am’s lifestyle technology company i.am+ has a terrible track record when it comes to making products that aren’t gaudy trash.
Wink sent the news to its users via email on Thursday and also sent a copy of the email to Mashable upon request. As expected, Wink praises the work i.am+ has done, and says the teams are going to be merging, and then says the buyout won’t affect existing Wink products or services. Here’s a chunk of the statement:
Our teams are in the process of coming together to shape our future roadmap and we cant wait to share what were working on.
In the meantime, please know that your Wink app and Wink Hub will continue to operate just as they have. The acquisition doesnt change anything with regards to the Wink user experience.
In other words, it’s business as usual and there’s no need for Wink users to panic. Well, not yet, anyway.
The reality is we’ve seen too many acquisitions to be tricked into thinking that nothing is going to change. Of course things are gonna be different. Wink itself said in its email it’ll be introducing “a number of new in-app features and partner integrations in the coming months.”
The optimist in me says that’s awesome new features! but i.am+ is in the driver’s seat now and they have no idea what the hell they’re doing. I’m sure they’ve have lots of wonderful, talented people, but the products i.am+ has released don’t paint a promising picture for the future of Wink products.
I know that Will.i.am’s a huge tech nerd and he’s obsessed with futuristic tech Intel did, after all, hire him to be their director of creative innovation but let’s just look at all the terrible gadgets he’s brought into this world. It might give us some insight as to what we can expect from the future of Wink.
Puls smartwatch wristband
The Puls smartwatch, for starters, was horrible in every way. It was ugly, uncomfortable, and the software was absolute garbage. When I reviewed it in 2014, I said it was a “wearable nightmare” and “a lesson in how not to design a wearable.” You should consider yourself lucky if you’ve never heard of this truly terrible device.
foto.sosho iPhone camera case
Horrible name aside, the foto.sosho was a decent idea, but nothing that wasn’t already done before. The iPhone case essentially turned your phone into a high-end camera with interchangeable lenses and a shutter button and flash. The pricier vintage version even had a physical keyboard that slid out. But the product cost more than $300, and these hideously flashy cases turned just about everyone off and never reached mainstream success.
Dial smart cuff
The failure of the Puls smartwatch didn’t stop will.i.am from trying to make another ugly smartwatch. Unveiled at last year’s London Fashion Week, the Dial was basically a thinner and sleeker version of the Puls. And like will.i.am’s first wearable, it had built-in cellular connectivity for making calls and receiving messages, and included a 2-megapixel camera.
“We’ve been working on a vision, a product and a platform that we believe will move the needle in popular culture,” will.i.am told Dezeen. “It is not tethered to a device, it is the device.”
But will.i.am couldn’t even get the damn thing to work during one of its major product demos. Long story short: The UK-exclusive wearable didn’t move the needle and was essentially dead on arrival.
Buttons Bluetooth earbuds
Buttons wireless earbuds are by far the most conservative of all of i.am+’s products, and probably the company’s most successful.
The products are quarter-sized earbud discs that are designed to look like vinyl records. They look sleek, but emit only average sound quality. And besides, everyone is moving to truly wireless earbuds without wires, like Apple’s AirPods. So we really don’t see these having a lasting impact on the industry.
Giving up on fashion?
Will.i.am’s existing products can be described in two words: fashion tech. They’re fashion accessories first and practical technology second.
So what the hell is his company doing getting into the smart home game, which has nothing to do with fashion? Your guess is as good as ours.
We’re scratching our heads on this one, but maybe they’re planning to release a product that’s similar to Amazon’s Echo Look camera, a smart home device that takes photos of your outfits and then makes rates them? Could be.
I.am+ has no experience building smart home products or the services that power them.
The bigger question is what kind of changes will be made to Wink in the coming months? I.am+ is the third owner of the company since it was originally born out of Quirky, the weird tech incubator that made products like a smart egg tray that keeps track of how many eggs are in it. When Quirky filed for bankruptcy in 2015, Wink was sold off to Flex, which was then sold to i.am+ this week.
I.am+ has no experience building smart home products or the services that power them. That said, the company is not starting from scratch. Wink’s already a popular Internet of Things platform and there are over 1.3 million devices connected devices through it as of last year.
If i.am+ somehow screws up Wink for those millions of devices, there will be hell to pay, and customers will come for will.i.am’s head. For now, we just hope the company learned its lesson from all those failed smartwatches.
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