Microsoft Launching Smart Home Incubator That Surely Has Nothing to Do With Competition

Google and Apple may have an early lead, but Microsoft has the history.

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Few would bill Microsoft as the grand purveyor of home automation, but it’s an area the company has been exploring since the nascent days of smart tech. So when Microsoft says it’s launching a startup accelerator focused on the next wave of home automation projects, you best take it seriously.

Earlier this week the tech giant announced it is teaming with American Family Insurance to promote startups and innovation in the emerging smart home market. More broadly, the incubator will focus on the Internet of Things—the poorly named, buzzy piece of tech jargon for the effort to unite all your physical devices wirelessly. It is the first U.S. accelerator Microsoft has announced since launching its Ventures program last year. Similar programs already exist in Beijing, Berlin, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere.

“Home automation is an interesting area for us, and extremely important when you combine it with cloud services and mobile devices,” Rahul Sood, general manager and partner at Microsoft Ventures, said in an interview with TechCrunch.

The program will run from August to September at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington. Participants will receive membership and education about how to properly build a competitive enterprise within the blossoming home automation sector.

“Home automation is an interesting area for us, and extremely important when you combine it with cloud services and mobile devices."

Interestingly, Microsoft does not demand equity stakes in firms that join the program, but it does withhold the right to become early investors. Additionally, American Family Insurance is offering a $25,000 equity investment to participating startups looking for extra funding.

So what drove Microsoft's apparent sudden interest in home automation? It’s easy to assume that the move is in response to Apple and Google’s early lead in smart home tech, what with Google’s acquisition of Nest and Apple’s new HomeKit framework. However, Sood explained to TechCrunch that Microsoft has been in the game for a while.

“This is something that we have been working on for a long time, long before Google bought Nest. There are plenty of technologies apart from what Nest is doing with the thermostat.”

That, my friends, is absolutely true.

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