It's a sign of the times that a long-time cable personality is now headed off to run a division of Alphabet, parent company to Google. Alphabet announced the appointment of Marwan Fawaz to the position of CEO at Nest late last week, replacing Nest founder Tony Fadell who stepped down at the same time.
For most of the folks in Silicon Valley, Fawaz is hardly a known entity, but for those of us who grew up in the small and insular world of cable, he's an established, well-respected technology leader.
Oddly enough, in some ways Silicon Valley and the cable industry are not as different as they seem. Both operate in their own cultural bubbles where insiders innately understand who holds power, who's on the outs, and where the best opportunities exist for hobnobbing and ladder-climbing. There's also a similar sheen of arrogance among the successful executives in the Valley and those in the cable operator space. Cable isn't as flashy, but it almost has the feel of old money versus Silicon Valley's new. Just because cable execs aren't (necessarily) badging themselves with muscle tees and Teslas doesn't mean they're not equally conscious of their own achievements and confident in their ability to one-up rivals.
To be fair, Fawaz is not the type to project arrogance. He's been more of a technology evangelist, pushing interactive television and even cable's transition to IP video delivery before many in the industry were willing to recognize IP's ascendance.
Fawaz also has specific expertise that should be valuable to Nest Labs . In the field of smart home development, Fawaz has been chair of the technical advisory board for ADT Corp. since early 2014. And as CTO for Adelphia and then Charter Communications Inc. , as well as in his role as CEO of Motorola Home, Fawaz undoubtedly developed the skills needed to balance technical operations with business management. Fawaz even crossed paths with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) directly in that later position with Motorola. He led the Motorola Home division when it was briefly a Google subsidiary before being sold off to Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS). (See Arris Secures Motorola Home.)
On the negative side, cable's weakness -- and by extension perhaps Fawaz's weakness -- is also Google's. Cable doesn't do products well, and neither does Google, or Alphabet Inc. It's a flaw that's hard to overlook, and one that Fawaz will have to work hard to overcome.
My takeaway from all of this is two-fold. First, convergence between the cable and Internet industries means there will be much more cross-pollination in the years to come. It's inevitable.
Second, while Fawaz looks like an outsider at Nest today, there's already more familiarity between the two than is immediately obvious to an observing public.
Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading