Did Amazon buy Roomba to keep Apple and Google from sniffing around?

From Benedict Evans Newsletter No. 452: "Amazon buys Rooomba":

Amazon bought iRobot, maker of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaners, for about $1.7 billion.

Amazon has been building a smart home business for quite a long time, centred on Alexa on one side and Ring on the other, and you can construct an elaborates theory that this is around data collection, understanding your home and your purchasing, listening to your conversations, and perhaps unlocking the door and tracking deliveries. A Roomba has a map of your home (actually just the bottom 2 inches of it), and you can construct all sort of hilariously paranoid fantasies around that as well. But I suspect Amazon just thinks that this is a: a good market, b: potentially an important end-point and touch point, and it want to be there and to be sure Apple/Google don’t lock it out (which is also part of the reason Meta is doing VR) and c: option value for the future.

Meanwhile, given that the FTC just sued to try to stop Meta buying Within, a small VR fitness app, I would be astonished if it does not try to stop this deal, which is a much more obviously real part of a much more obviously real market.

My take: The idea that Meta is doing VR to beat Apple to the punch is a new one on me.


  1. David Emery said:
    That’s just bizarre…

    I figured Amazon bought iRobot because they want to sell iRobot products and pocket the revenue. (iRobot was a contractor for a military program I was on in the ’00s. We nicknamed their contribution “the Kaboomba”)

    August 8, 2022
  2. Bart Yee said:
    “My take: The idea that Meta is doing VR to beat Apple to the punch is a new one on me.”

    Whether Meta is doing AR, VR, or Z-Alt-R, it matters not. Meta has not proven they can do hardware, has not shown they can do software for a hardware platform, and most importantly, has no freaking practical idea where the hell they are going with this “Metaverse”, or more appropriately, the Zuckerverse.

    Whereas Apple thinks long and hard about practical applications, improvements, and solutions to current systems and interfaces, does its R&D, iterates repeatedly until it has a great solution. Not decent, not good, but great. And tries to bring along tech advances to make that happen or wait until the advances are right before introducing a product.

    Rest assured, Facebook/Meta can be first in VR/AR, but Apple will be much better or best and pull away smartly.

    August 8, 2022
  3. Michael Goldfeder said:
    If in fact Amazon bought this Roomba robot vacuum to prevent Apple from making the acquisition, as an investor I’m quite happy losing out as I’d rather Apple purchased Kirby and Hoover. As for Meta beating Apple to the punch on anything, I’ll give them the obvious yet pyrrhic victory for being the first into the metaverse, albeit by only an insignificant name change. Lina still knows who they are, or at least her staff probably does.

    August 8, 2022
  4. Fred Stein said:
    Normally Benedict is brilliant. But no, Apple would develop their own or buy a small IP-rich startup to address this, And, it seems Apple is not pushing hard into smart home or home surveillance.

    As for Meta: MP3 players before iPod.

    August 8, 2022

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