This may seem like a distraction from my theme of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, but please stick with me for a moment as we consider the fate of Blake Krikorian who is best known for the Slingbox and now seems to be selling his current company, the awkwardly named Id8 Group R2 Studios, Inc.. I think Krikorian’s career arc and our fascination with it give some insight into the whole tech-vs-Hollywood theme, showing how aimless and confused are some of these big technology companies.
The post I read that got me thinking in this direction came from Kara Swisher at allthingsd.com, which is part of the Wall Street Journal. Krikorian is reportedly selling his home automation startup to Amazon or Apple or Google or maybe Microsoft — in other words the usual suspects. Amazon may be now out of contention because Krikorian just resigned from the Amazon board. But in any case, Kara says, they all want Krikorian because “he is considered one of tech’s most savvy execs with regard to video and media distribution.”
I don’t know Blake Krikorian and I wish him nothing but the best, but he’s clearly one of the luckiest SOB’s on earth having got Charlie Ergen of Echostar to pay $380 million (way too much) for Sling Media, which had a sliver of technology wrapped in slick marketing.
Sling, which allows you to kinda-sorta watch your home cable box and favorite sports teams over the Internet from anywhere you can find a connection, hasn’t done much to change the way most of us watch TV.
And what Krikorian has for sale now is a home automation company, not a media distribution company. So why is Kara even trying to link this potential deal to entertainment? Because entertainment is sexy and home automation is not. And there’s so little real information about what’s happening in the entertainment space that folks like Kara (and sometimes me) tend to grasp at straws.
I would guess Krikorian is going to Google. Home automation is a good place to lose money and Google has plenty of that. It is also a lot of fun and Google is one of the few companies these days willing to spend real money on fun. Of these potential acquirers Google — and only Google — makes sense mainly because of Big Data. They don’t have to actually make money on the tech, while all the others do.
Soon Google will know when you get up, where you go in your home and when. They’ll know how many times per day you flush your toilet.
Get ready for the Google ToiletSense algorithm.
I don’t see Apple doing this when they can’t even get a TV done. Home automation can be very messy and Apple doesn’t like messy. But this could also be Tim Cook’s next chance to show he is not Steve Jobs, which means if he does the deal he’ll grossly overpay. Steve never overpaid for anything. But in this case the PR value might be worth it.
Whoever gets Krikorian’s company will pay too much. And whoever doesn’t get him will probably be forced to overpay for some other company just to appear to be still in the game. Whatever that game actually is.
Microsoft could be a buyer out of pure desperation. Maybe BillG needs new automation for his home.
Then there is Intel. Talk about being desperate: in the land of the blind, Krikorian could become King.
In other words this story about entertainment technology mainly shows that most of the big tech companies are clueless but trying not to appear that way. They sense that this is the place to be but have no idea at all what to do.