Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Has Blake Krikorian Landed His Home Automation Start-Up at Apple or Google?


So which big company did well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur Blake Krikorian sell his latest start-up to: Apple or Google?

Or maybe Microsoft?

According to several sources, the deal is not completed.

That did not stop Amazon — the fourth player in this digital roundelay — from publicly saying it was earlier today after the company said Krikorian had suddenly resigned from the board of Amazon. He became a director at the online retail giant only last fall.

And, indeed, the move was directly related to acquisition discussions that his id8 Group R2 Studios has been having with a number of large companies, including Apple and Google, as well as Microsoft. All are now major competitors to Amazon which is now deep into video distribution via its Kindle devices.

But grabbing Krikorian would be a coup for any of these players, since he is considered one of tech’s most savvy execs with regard to video and media distribution. He co-founded Sling Media, the maker of the innovative video device Slingbox, in 2004.

(Krikorian demoed it at the second D: All Things Digital conference in 2004.)

His latest effort is focused on home automation, which has been a personal interest of his for some time, including wiring (or, more precisely, wireless-ing) up his own house in a variety of ever more complex digital experiments.

He once told me he began to outfit his home using Apple devices and then switched to Google’s Android operating system since the software was easier and more extensible to develop on.

The Wall Street Journal had reported last week that Apple, Google and Microsoft were considering buying R2 Studios. It noted that id8 Group R2 Studios had released an “app that turns Android phones into touch panels for controlling heating and lighting systems wirelessly” and also has a number of other patents in the arena.

In addition, Amazon told the Journal today that Krikorian “opted to resign because he has sold his current firm ‘and is taking a position at the acquiring company.'”

Amazon was unspecific about the acquiring company. But other sources noted the statement was not exactly right, noting a deal was “close but not done.”

(A mystery! Which I will attempt to solve over the holiday weekend! )

But the list of candidates is likely to be large, since using popular automation devices to turbocharge the home has been a big area of investment of late, since tablets and smartphones can be turned into souped-up remote control to monitor and control a wide range of things.

Krikorian has been noodling around in the arena since he sold Sling Media in 2007 to EchoStar Communications for $380 million. After a short (and unhappy) stint there, he left and has since been working on a variety of projects and making various investments.

Those include some promising start-ups, such as Lytro, Kno, Clipboard, Chirply and Tasty Labs. Another company Krikorian invested in, Clicker, was sold to CBS earlier this year.

After he sold Sling Media, Google made an aggressive effort to hire the entrepreneur, but he initially rebuffed the search giant to work on his own projects.

I have calls into Krikorian, but he has not yet responded. Apple, Google and Microsoft declined to comment.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald