This morning, Amazon and iRobot announced “a definitive merger settlement below which Amazon will purchase iRobot” for US $1.7 billion. The announcement was a shock, to place it mildly, and we’ve barely had an opportunity to digest the information. However looking at what’s already recognized can nonetheless yield preliminary (if incomplete) solutions as to why Amazon and iRobot need to workforce up—and whether or not the merger looks like a good suggestion.
The press release, like most press releases about acquisitions of this nature, doesn’t embrace a lot in the best way of element. However listed below are some quotes:
“We all know that saving time issues, and chores take treasured time that may be higher spent doing one thing that prospects love,” stated Dave Limp, SVP of Amazon Units. “Over a few years, the iRobot workforce has confirmed its capability to reinvent how folks clear with merchandise which are extremely sensible and creative—from cleansing when and the place prospects need whereas avoiding widespread obstacles within the house, to robotically emptying the gathering bin. Prospects love iRobot merchandise—and I am excited to work with the iRobot workforce to invent in ways in which make prospects’ lives simpler and extra pleasurable.”
“Since we began iRobot, our workforce has been on a mission to create revolutionary, sensible merchandise that make prospects’ lives simpler, resulting in innovations just like the Roomba and iRobot OS,” stated Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot. “Amazon shares our ardour for constructing considerate improvements that empower folks to do extra at house, and I can not consider a greater place for our workforce to proceed our mission. I am vastly excited to be part of Amazon and to see what we will construct collectively for purchasers within the years forward.”
There’s not a lot to go on right here, and iRobot has already referred us to Amazon PR, which, to be trustworthy, looks like a little bit of a punch within the intestine. I really like (liked?) so many issues about iRobot—their quirky early history working on weird DARPA projects and even weirder toys, every part they completed with the PackBot (and in addition this), and most of all, the truth that they’ve made a profitable firm constructing helpful and inexpensive robots for the house, which is simply… It’s so laborious to try this I don’t even know the place to begin. And no person is aware of what’s going to occur to iRobot going ahead. I’m certain iRobot and Amazon have all types of plans and guarantees and whatnot, however nonetheless—I’m now nervous about iRobot’s future.
Why it is a good transfer for Amazon is obvious, however what precisely is in it for iRobot?
It appears pretty apparent why Amazon wished to get its fingers on iRobot. Amazon has been working for years to combine itself into properties, first with audio programs (Alexa), after which video (Ring), and extra just lately some questionable house robots of its personal, like its indoor security drone and Astro. Amazon clearly wants some assist in understanding learn how to make house robots helpful, and iRobot can possible present some steerage, with its terribly certified workforce of extremely skilled engineers. And evidently, iRobot is already nicely established in an enormous variety of properties, with model recognition akin to one thing like Velcro or Xerox, within the sense that folks don’t have “robotic vacuums,” they’ve Roombas.
All these Roombas in all of these properties are additionally accumulating a loopy quantity of information for iRobot. iRobot itself has been reasonably privacy-sensitive about this, however it could be naïve to not assume that Amazon sees a variety of potential for studying a lot, way more about what goes on in our residing rooms. That is extra regarding, as a result of Amazon has its own ideas about data privacy, and it is unclear what this may imply for more and more camera-reliant Roombas going ahead.
I get why it is a good transfer for Amazon, however I have to admit that I’m nonetheless making an attempt to determine what precisely is in it for iRobot, in addition to in fact that “$61 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at roughly $1.7 billion.” Which, to be truthful, looks like a heck of some huge cash. Often when these sorts of mergers occur (and I’m considering again to Google acquiring all those robotics companies in 2013), the hypothetical enchantment for the robotics firm is that out of the blue they’ve a bunch extra assets to spend on thrilling new initiatives together with a giant assist construction to assist them succeed.
It’s true that iRobot has apparently had some bother with discovering methods to innovate and develop, with their largest potential new client product (the Terra lawn mower) having been on pause since 2020. It might be that massive pile of money, plus not having to fret a lot about progress as a publicly traded firm, plus some new Amazon-ish initiatives to work on might be motive sufficient for this acquisition.
My fear, although, is that iRobot is simply going to get utterly swallowed into Amazon and successfully stop to exist in a significant and distinctive method. I hope that the connection between Amazon and iRobot might be an exception to this historic pattern. Plus, there may be some precedent for this—Boston Dynamics, for instance, has survived a number of acquisitions whereas protecting its expertise and philosophy kind of impartial and intact. It’ll be on iRobot to very aggressively act to protect itself, and protecting Colin Angle as CEO is an efficient begin.
We’ll be making an attempt to trace down extra of us to speak to about this over the approaching weeks for a extra nuanced and in-depth perspective. Within the meantime, make certain to offer your Roomba a hug—it’s been fairly a day for little spherical robotic vacuums.