On Wednesday, Silk Labs, the smart home company founded by the ex-Mozilla team that worked on Mozilla OS, announced that it was abandoning its plan to build its Sense line of smart home hardware. Last year, the company ran a Kickstarter to fund the release of Sense, raising almost $165,000. Unlike your typical "Kickstarter horror story," the company made it clear that all donations would be refunded, and that the decision wasn't made because the project was unraveling.
Rather than enter in a more and more crowded hardware market with the likes of Amazon Echo, Silk has decided to focus exclusively on their software platform. In their blog post, the company stated that their original plan was to launch Sense as a way to sell their software, the Silk platform, to more hardware manufacturers. From the Silk Blog:
We are now seeing so much commercial interest in the Silk platform that we have realized we can bring our vision to more people more quickly if we switch gears and focus on the commercial opportunities ahead, instead of completing our Kickstarter device first.
So, in essence, their original plan worked more quickly than they anticipated. Before they even got the chance to show off what Silk could do with their own hardware, they got enough interest from Kickstarter backers interested in being early adopters and hardware manufacturers interested in using the software themselves.
Silk first announced that the platform is now open and available on GitHub. In the time before more dedicated Silk-based hardware appears, though, Silk is planning a port to two Android devices, where the platform can take advantage of all the sensors of those phones: the Xiomi RedMi Note 3 and the Samsung Nexus 4. Kickstarter backers also have an opportunity to apply for one of these phones, applying $100 of their pledge to this device, with the rest of the cost covered by Silk.
Silk's Place in IoT
Smart home hardware is projected to grow to over 300 million installed units by 2020, and open platforms will be a major player in growing the space and helping devices work with each other. Since Silk's initial goal was to enter the open platform market space anyway, it seems that this announcement doesn't hurt their plans at all.
However, I'm a little curious about the Kickstarter in the first place. It essentially became a glorified straw poll to ask who would like their software. Could there have been an easier way to do this that didn't require a huge refund? If they can refund the money without any issues (or at least, any that we've been made aware of), did they really need a Kickstarter to begin with? What would the harm have been in focusing exclusively on the platform from the start?