Motorola Buys Home Netwoker 4Home: Does It Make Sense?

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

Motorola Mobility, the communications subsidiary of Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) , today said it is buying home networking specialist 4Home in the latest and likely not the last acquisition in smart grid.

4Home's star attraction is ControlPoint, the company's software that can tap the power consumption of various appliances and deliver information to consumers about their power usage and prospective power bills. Consumers can likewise use the software (with a little extra hardware) to turn down lights, curb air conditioners and other actions to save power.

To date, it has largely been trying to get to the market through Big Box retailers and utilities. Its biggest allies to date have been Sensus, Marvell Semiconductor and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) . In all likelihood, Motorola will integrate 4Home's software into its phones, set-top boxes and home networking equipment.

The big question now is how will Motorola and/or its competitors make money off of the smart home. Many executives already fear that consumers will recoil at spending money, or spending much, for energy management services. As a result, most are trying to come up with ways that will allow them to cull revenue while allowing consumers to get home management services for free or at a discount.

General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) Samsung and LG Electronics could have it easy. These companies can get into home networking by inserting intelligence into large appliances. These companies will likely try to sell home networking equipment and services, but if they can wring extra dollars out of consumers with dynamic air conditioners or refrigerators with off-peak defrosting cycles, success in smart homes can be declared.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) hopes to use Hohm, its home energy software, as as advertising portal for retrofitters, plumbers and energy services companies. Considering that most consumers only retrofit every several years, that could be a tough sell.

EcoFactor, meanwhile, plans to work with large cable and communications providers who will resell, or even potentially give away, EcoFactor's energy management services as part of their own service bundles. For an extra $10 a month, Comcast will reduce your utility bill by $15, guaranteed. The strategy seems viable because communications carriers have a vested interest in reducing customer churn. In a similar vein, Tendril and Silver Spring will sell home energy services through utilities. To get a better handle on peak power, utilities will likely foot all or part of the bill here. (Silver Spring recently did one of the most interesting things in a while with its Greenbox home energy management console: It got rid of the console. Consumers just access the data through phones. No one needs an extra LCD, and it just adds costs.)

Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) hopes to sell installation services. Unlike utilities or communications carriers, Best Buy doesn't have a customer churn or peak power problem to solve. Thus, Best Buy may face stiff resistance from the cheapskates of the world.

People Power, a startup being fostered by Gene Wang, hopes to sell software and components to equipment makers at a low, low price. Adding its intellingence into a product, ideally, will only increase the bill of materials by $5.

Motorola simply might just try to embed intelligence into its home equipment. Because set-top boxes don't carry the same high price tag as a new refrigerator, it could become difficult to hide the additional costs. Motorola will also get browbeat by the true consumers of home networking equipment -- communications carriers and utilities -- over any additional costs.

Similarly, it could adopt an EcoFactor strategy. EcoFactor, however, offers a software-as-a-service. Motorola primarily makes things. It could take a little gear shifting and partner massaging at the big M to act as a software-as-a-service provider. Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) , another big maker of set-top boxes and home networking, is in a similar situation as Motorola. On the other hand, hundreds of millions of intelligent set-top boxes will get shipped over the next decade: even if home networking becomes a hardware play, the dollars from those boxes will add up. 

Two years from now, we might know which truly is the secret formula.


More from GreenTechMedia:

Best Buy and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool has written calls (Bull Call Spread) on Cisco Systems. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Best Buy. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy, and Microsoft. 

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2010, at 2:00 PM, tonicc wrote:

    "Motorola Buys Home Netwoker 4Home"

    now you can wok on the net?

Add your comment.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1387387, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/21/2016 10:22:28 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 1 hour ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,145.71 -16.64 -0.09%
S&P 500 2,141.16 -0.18 -0.01%
NASD 5,257.40 15.57 0.30%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/21/2016 4:03 PM
BBY $39.46 Down -0.02 -0.05%
Best Buy CAPS Rating: *
CSCO $30.15 Down -0.01 -0.03%
Cisco Systems CAPS Rating: ****
GE $28.98 Down -0.09 -0.31%
General Electric CAPS Rating: ****
MSFT $59.66 Up +2.41 +4.21%
Microsoft CAPS Rating: ****
MSI $73.62 Up +0.05 +0.07%
Motorola Solutions CAPS Rating: ***
VZ $48.20 Down -0.94 -1.91%
Verizon Communicat… CAPS Rating: ****