IoT Strategies

Cable Goes to Google-Land

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.

Want to know more about pay-TV market trends? Check out our dedicated video services content channel here on Light Reading.

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

Joe Stanganelli 6/14/2016 | 6:34:29 AM
Re: Outsiders @jbt: Indeed, I think the cable industry already faced down and solved their biggest challenge once they figured out how to make their pipes go both ways -- relegating technologies like ISDN to the realm of esoteric irrelevance.
jbtombes 6/13/2016 | 5:09:37 PM
Re: Outsiders Agree. Joe. Cross pollination can be a good thing. (And cable's top leaders are better at dealing with new technologies and change than many realize.) Like your reference to Silicon Valley.
Joe Stanganelli 6/10/2016 | 10:28:54 AM
Re: Outsiders @jbtombes: Indeed, I think most industries -- in terms of their hiring, organizing, and team formation -- would benefit from going outside-the-box and selecting people who bring varied experience that can help in particular areas.

And I was kidding about Marwan.  ;)
jbtombes 6/7/2016 | 1:40:38 PM
Re: Outsiders 1) Marwan is steady and trusted, with solid turn-around credentials. (See Adelphia, before and after.) Arrogant is one of the last words I'd associate with him. Though one of the first you might pin on his predecessor at Nest, if recent reports are credible. 2) Smart Home tech, whether thermostats or new security systems, can benefit from service provider experience, which is another reason why ADT and now Nest have turned to this cable guy.
msilbey 6/7/2016 | 10:22:24 AM
Re: what is in a title? Sorry- didn't mean to bait and switch. :) I think one of the most overlooked factors in analyzing the cable industry today is the cultural piece. It's a group of very distinct players with very distinct ideas about how things work. It's opening up, but only after many decades.
jayakd0 6/6/2016 | 10:32:44 PM
what is in a title? On the first glance (the title), I thought you are going to uncover some interesting cable technology buildout in the areas of Google Fiber.

Never mind, made a good reading of how, long term technology exposures can also mould human behaviours in interesting ways :)
Joe Stanganelli 6/6/2016 | 2:46:24 PM
Outsiders I thought all tech evangelists were arrogant!  Add in the Google factor, and, well...  ;)  (jk) (sort of)

This outsider perspective can cut either way.  On the one hand, I've seen many examples in my career and as an industry watcher of traditional "outsiders" finding and applying new approaches to problems that insiders simply couldn't see.  On the other hand, well, there's what happened earlier this season with the CEO of Pied Piper on Silicon Valley...
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