“You’re going to need internet everywhere.”
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On this episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode are joined by the CEO of Eero, Nick Weaver. His company makes Wi-Fi boosters for your home so that (hopefully!) the speed of your internet connection stays high no matter where you are in your house or apartment.
You can read some of the highlights from their discussion here, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode.
Lauren Goode: I’m Lauren Goode, senior technology editor at The Verge.
You’re listening to Too Embarrassed to Ask, coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast Network. This is a show where we answer all of your embarrassing questions about consumer tech.
Kara, I think that was a little low energy.
Did you? I’m sorry.
Yeah, I don’t know, I think that you’ve been slipping in recent weeks.
No, I’m on the Whole30 diet and I really want a cookie. That’s what’s going on.
You just need a burger. Once you have a burger, you’re going to be like, “Vox Media.”
No, a burger’s fine. I can have a burger. I’m so sick of meat. I got the meat sweats. Anyway, the Vox Media Podcast Network. Go ahead.
You can ask us any question.
I want a cookie.
You could ask us something like “When is Kara going to have a burger?” No.
I can have a burger, I can’t have a cookie.
You can ask questions like, “Will any company be able to make smart glasses look cool?”
How can I use apps to be more productive?
Do meditation apps work?
Well, we had Rich Pierson from Headspace here.
If I used it, yes it would work.
See, maybe you need more meditation apps. “Will sexism in tech ever change?”
See, that’s why I need a meditation app. No.
That’s a topic we addressed last week with Joelle Emerson and Niniane Wang.
I would say no.
It was an excellent episode, so I recommend you go check it out.
Send us your questions. We really do read them all. Find us on Twitter or tweet them to @Recode or myself, or to Lauren with the hashtag #tooembarrassed.
We also have an email address.
It’s email@example.com, and a friendly reminder that embarrassed has two Rs and two Ss and if you forget that then Kara’s going to bite your head off because she’s literally starving.
You can forget that if you work at the White House because they’re always misspelling things over there. Anyway, how you doing?
The White House, man.
What about the …
What the hell?
Are you going to take Mooch’s job?
I offered it to him. I offered him the Uber job. I’m offering it, I know a couple people in the Trump Administration. I keep sending them notes saying, “The Uber job is for you. It’s a lot easier.”
Sorry, Enron’s not available, but Uber is.
Really, I’ve gotten like four responses, and they’re all like, “Oh my god, it’s probably easier at Uber than it is here.” They’re sending it all on secret telegram or telephone or telegram to me. Literally all the people I know in the Trump Administration are like, “Eh, that might work out better.” I’m like, “It only has lawsuits, a crazy founder, sexism, sexual harassment, a crazy board, Arianna Huffington.” They’re like, “Sign me up,” after this week in the White House.
You used your Arianna voice.
You should just get out of the White House.
You have to do it on every podcast.
Hello. How are you? I talk with Arianna. “Oh Kara, these articles are so harsh on us.” Get over it. She’s having the time of her life, I think.
You recently interviewed Frances Frei who came from Harvard Business School and is now their VP of Strategy and Operations.
She was an excellent interview.
That is available also as a podcast now, audio only.
It is indeed. We did it live on the Ericsson campus. She held firm. Boy did I try to …
She had so many data points from the case studies that she of course has studied and led and everything.
It’s hard to argue with an academic, I got to tell you.
She’s very academic.
She was like, “I’m trying to show people that it’s pebbles, not boulders, in their way.” I’m like, “It’s reinforced concrete over there at Uber HQ.” This weekend I was out in Oakland, where Uber was supposed to go and now they’re bringing a much smaller group of people to that building there. It’s quite a lovely area. I like Oakland a lot. They’re not going there though because they can’t figure anything out until they have a new CEO.
Yeah. There you have it.
There you have it.
Scaramucci and Uber, that really was my week.
Right. Let’s get to the topic at hand. For those of you who sent your questions in this week and you’re like, “I just want to know what to do about my damn Wi-Fi router,” we’re getting to the point now. Today we’re taking on a topic that affects almost everyone who uses the internet, and that’s Wi-Fi. We are joined in studio by the chief executive officer of a company called Eero, which you may have heard of. His name is Nick Weaver.
Yes, my family has a dozen of them, I think. Megan put them all through whatever giant house she bought in D.C.
Nick Weaver is here in studio to join us. Nick, thank you for being here.
Nick Weaver: Thanks for having me.
LG: You’re also one of several companies that makes what’s known as a mesh router system, and that’s basically just a fancy way of saying that you have a bunch of these internet boxes that might make it easier to get reliable Wi-Fi throughout your entire house. We’re going to talk about who these routers are for and what else is in the market that you should pay attention to and just generally how they work.
KS: People love Eero. Megan loves Eero, as I just say. A lot of people … it was recommended by another geek, who recommended by another and so on. You’re too young to remember the shampoo commercial.
LG: I like how you say another geek.
KS: Yeah, another geek and so on and so on and so on. All the geeks love it, I’ll tell you. It’s really interesting and it actually works rather well. She’s got a big house with a lot of brick around it, and it’s mesh network, the whole dang thing.
KS: Yeah. Anyway.
Yeah, I saw that.
LG: If you’re interested in reading more after this podcast, go to theverge.com.
KS: Let’s start with talking about what it does, and what these all do. I want you to talk about your competitors and others, but why is it different and why is it innovative compared to, you have Comcast come, they install the router box, and sometimes you have sometimes good Wi-Fi, sometimes bad Wi-Fi.
When you look at just the internet speeds coming into our homes, over the last few years they’ve gone up dramatically. Think back five years ago, you’d have five or 10 megabits a second of speed coming into your house. If you put one router in the corner of your home and you broadcast on the older Wi-Fi technology — so to use the terminology, 802.11n, g before that — that all runs on something called 2.4 gigahertz.
KS: That’s that thing you have in your house, right? That thing.
Exactly, that box that just comes in. That runs on 2.4 gigahertz. Those waves get through homes and walls really well, but not at superfast speeds. When the speed coming into our homes was five or 10 megabits a second, you could put that one box there …
KS: It slows it down.
… and you could get it everywhere. Now speeds as are 50, 100, 500 megabits a second and we’re using just a ton more internet in our homes, what you end up having to do is have more than one box providing internet connectivity to all the difference devices. That’s what’s happened in, say, like corporate campuses, college campuses, just enterprises in general. They’re usually all wired up. It’s super complicated. You need a network engineer to set it up. When we were starting the company we said, “Look, we want to have the same thing, but for people’s homes.” The problem is people aren’t network engineers and there isn’t all that wiring to connect all the things.
What we ended up doing was we made the cloud in a mobile app, so our cloud sets up and configures everything. The mobile app makes it really easy to just tap a couple buttons and have it work. Then we also built some mesh technology, so the devices can talk to each other without having to rely on a bunch of cables throughout your home.
KS: You’re an extender really? We had Steve Jobs at one of our AllThingsD conferences. I still have that in my house, what’s it called?
KS: Not the Airport, he had another thing.
The Airport Express?
KS: Express, right, the small one. That was the concept is, you put it and extend it essentially. Can you talk about how it’s different? You still do plug into the cable box that you get from Comcast, correct?
Yeah, you have the internet.
KS: Or whatever, Comcast here.
You have to have an internet connection. You can have a cable connection from Comcast. You could have DSL from AT&T or any other provider. For some connections, like cable, you can get a standalone just modem and plug our stuff in, but a lot of people have that combo modem, router, box. You plug our first unit in, that starts your Eero network. Then for other Eero’s around the home, you can plug them into ethernet if you have ethernet jacks. If you don’t, you just plug it into power and things get up and running.
KS: They talk to each other.
Exactly. What we do differently is we’ve got two radios on one of our products. We have three radios on another one, and what we’ve done is we’ve made it really fast for data to flow through the devices so you don’t have the speed hit you would have had normally with a range extender or say that Apple Airport Express that only has one radio.
LG: You’re supporting different bands. You mentioned earlier 2.4 gigahertz was the standard for a long time, and now it’s 5 gigahertz, right? Basically anyone who gets a newer router these days, they’re going to have support of both of those bands.
Exactly. What we do with our product is we give you one network. It’s got access on 2.4, it’s got access on 5 — on our new Gen 2 Eero’s, it actually has two 5 gigahertz networks — and it does that all under one network name so you don’t have to constantly switch and go to Wi-Fi 2.4 or Wi-Fi 5.
LG: Yeah, switch between 5 and 2.4.
KS: I don’t even understand it.
You just have one network name. You set the network to whatever you want it to be. Could be Too Embarrassed Wi-Fi, and that’ll work seamlessly throughout your home.
LG: I like this. What would the password be?
One, two, three, four.
KS: One, two, three, four.
KS: Kara hates configuring Wi-Fi.
LG: What you’re doing is kind of brilliant because you’re also effectively telling customers that they should buy more than one of these things.
LG: Unlike a router that you would get …
KS: Sort of like Sonos.
LG: Right, like Sonos, but it’s like people don’t upgrade their routers that often.
KS: Usually you just take what you get from Comcast.
LG: Right, and sometimes you’re paying a monthly fee for it as opposed to getting a box outright.
KS: You don’t need that, correct, the box from Comcast then?
You’re going to need to have a modem. You could go buy a cable modem on Amazon for $50 or $100 so you don’t have that rental fee, and then you plug your Eero into and you’re good to go.
KS: I see, so you need something there.
You have to have an incoming pipe. Typically that incoming connection terminates at a modem, whether it’s a DSL modem or a cable modem or even a fiber access point.
KS: You can’t just have them plug into an Eero and go?
You need ethernet. You need a modem to then plug into the ethernet port on Eero.
KS: Got it. Good.
LG: How many of your customers buy a bundle of Eeros? I would imagine that’s the market you’re addressing because you’re getting people to buy more than one.
Ninety percent of our customers have three Eeros in their home.
KS: Why? Let’s act like we’re dumb people just getting these things. I just had a new cable box sent to me because something was wrong and it’s real ugly. It’s ugly as the other one. I plugged it in. I did it myself. I plugged it into the wall where the cable comes in. I happen to have a weird ethernet that I don’t even understand that was put in years ago. Somehow that’s all plugged into things. Then it just broadcast, and it was actually a very easy setup this time for Comcast. It was on an app and then I renamed it. I didn’t have that long ridiculous name that they all have, and I was able to set a password easily.
KS: Kara1234, yeah. That is not the password. I forgot the password. Anyway, then you plug it right there, the Eero there with it.
KS: Then you move and put them all around. Why don’t cable companies do this also?
Great question. I think we’re going to start seeing the market move more in that direction. The difference, though, between one of those fully integrated combo boxes and what we’re doing is it’s a totally integrated system. You have to build a mobile app, you have to have a cloud, you have to have hardware. You have to build that hardware from scratch. It’s a really challenging engineering product and design. It’s hard to pull off.
KS: They have a lot of money, but that’s their business.
It’s also what’s your focus. Is your focus delivering a great network or is your focus delivering a great user experience, a great product? What we found, we have a number of partners that have started to buy Eero systems and use that instead of having those combo boxes. What they’re seeing is happier customers, less calls to their support center and people just love the experience.
LG: If you’re in a one- or two-bedroom apartment, you don’t necessarily need that kind of range. This sounds like it’s for people like Dan Seifert who reviewed this for The Verge, who noted that he has a multi-story house and I think he has some pretty thick walls and things like that. His Wi-Fi is compromised in certain areas, but for a lot of people, and I would think in some ways some of your core audience too, your core customer base, they don’t necessarily need multiple Eero’s, right?
You’d be surprised. Obviously if you’ve got a bigger home, you’re going to need internet everywhere. You’re going to need a lot of units to make sure that happens. When you get into a city environment, it’s pretty interesting. You can go stand next to your router, run a speed test. Go to your bedroom, go to your kitchen, go to a few places, and what you’ll see is just the speed drop off dramatically. The reason that is, frequently you’re in old construction with lots of brick and stucco, and second, there’s just a ton of interference because there’s so many people stacked up on each other.
KS: With their own systems, correct.
Exactly. What we found is the median Eero home is 1,700 square feet. We’re not talking huge homes, but a lot of people with a one-bedroom, two-bedroom apartment have two units and it’s so they can watch Netflix in their bedroom or they can work on their laptop in the kitchen. We see that a lot. Just run that test and then you don’t need a huge system. You can start with an Eero, maybe plug in one of our beacons, which is one of the units that just plugs right into the wall. For example, I’m in a two-bedroom apartment, I’ve got three Eero’s. It’s just because there’s a lot of interference everywhere.
KS: We’re going to get to your competitors, but what has happened with people and using the internet, just broadly? Not just with your company, but in terms of needing this much. Before — and you’re, again, too young — but we did the regular modems and then we did this, and then it was pretty much slow internet around the homes. Can you talk a little bit about what’s happened and what requires this much bandwidth ability?
The biggest driver of all this is just watch the Netflix earnings. People are cutting the cord faster than anyone ever anticipated, and now what’s happened is they’re 100 percent reliant on great internet connectivity everywhere. The moment you get between the average American and their television, that’s when they’re really motivated to go fix a problem.
KS: That’s just Donald Trump, but go ahead. Sorry, you walked right into that.
With people cutting the cord, that’s what’s driving a lot of folks to go upgrade their connectivity. It’s that plus look at what’s happening with streaming music. Spotify now has, what, 60 million subscribers. Every piece of content we can …
KS: Internet-connected devices.
You’ve got Nest Cams and Ring doorbells and Sonos speakers. Devices are connecting everywhere, so we finally hit that inflection point where people want to have something that just works and they’re willing to pay for a much higher-quality experience.
KS: Let’s talk about your competitors. Google?
LG: Let’s talk about Google.
KS: Yeah, Google.
LG: Who do you consider to be your biggest competitors? Google has Google WiFi, which has also gotten some pretty positive reviews. It’s similar in what it does and how it works and also it comes in a bundle. You’re also, I guess, battling in some ways some of the legacy router makers as well.
KS: There’s tons of them. Who’s the biggest?
LG: Who do you consider your biggest competitor?
Honestly, the biggest competitor is just people learning about the category and that can fix this problem. The issue with range extenders was so many people tried them for so long and they failed, and so they just assumed that, hey, the internet’s not going to work and that’s just what life is like.
LG: Of the people who know what a mesh network is …
KS: Yes, we’d like to know.
LG: … and they’re looking and they’re considering buying one of these because they know the value of it, because we talk to all kinds of companies and we’ll say, “What’s your biggest challenge?” and it’s, “People don’t know about us yet.” Okay, so they know about you now. Who’s your biggest competitor?
What we found is the market just continues to grow quite a bit. There’s good products from other companies. What we’ve been focused on is first having this open ecosystem. If you look at our customers’ homes, there’s not a single home that’s all Apple devices, all Amazon devices or all Google devices. We spend a lot of time and effort making sure we play nice with all the top devices in the home. That’s been one big focus. Then the other big thing is we’re early, relatively early in the history of the company, and we’re just starting to ramp up distribution.
KS: You also did cut the price. There’s obviously more and more competition, and you’d imagine Amazon might try or Apple I suppose would try again in those areas because you’re going to see some big competitors in that area.
They could. Where people keep coming back to us, it’s, A) we work with more devices, more seamlessly, and so we pour a lot of effort into interoperability. Every Eero that’s connected ends up spitting out data to help us understand how our iPhone’s performing, how our Sonos speaker’s performing, how is Alexa performing, and we use that aggregated data to keep improving our software.
KS: I say one of the biggest things is that you don’t want Google messing around in your home. Honestly, half of my decisions are made like that, and now I don’t want as much Amazon in there because I buy everything now because I’m at Whole Foods. It’s fascinating. Part of it is that idea as an independent. You don’t want those two or three companies to really dominate every single data interaction you have, which is a plus for you guys, presumably.
Our business model is to sell you a premium product and that’s our business.
KS: That’s what I mean.
We don’t have an advertising business, we don’t have an e-commerce business. We’re here to sell really great product.
KS: You have 50 percent of the mesh router market? Is this according to The Verge, a piece in The Verge? You have 50 percent?
LG: That’s according to NPD.
LG: Data that came out earlier this year, that of the mesh router networks, Eero has 50 percent. Has that changed since then? I think that was February?
I don’t have the latest numbers, but the latest stat we learned was when you look at the market compared to a year ago, it’s grown 11x. Especially with our new products, like our No. 1 focus has been how do we just build more of them.
LG: How concerned do people have to be about privacy in their routers? People ask that a lot at The Verge. What router or plugin or something should I use? People talk to me about using a Raspberry Pi to build their own connected thing to basically block ads.
KS: You look relatively harmless, but we know Google isn’t and we know Amazon. Apple’s relatively harmless compared.
LG: It seems as though some router makers are starting to build anti-virus and anti-malware software directly into the routers themselves rather than waiting for users to install it on their end devices. How concerned do people actually have to be about spying across Wi-Fi networks?
KS: Not just spying, but also data taking.
LG: Data collection.
KS: There’s data collection, and then there’s spying too.
Let’s break it up. There’s privacy and then there’s the security of the device.
KS: Security, yep.
When I look at security of devices in the home, one of the single biggest things you should look at for a company or a product line is how many products are there. Say you’ve got 40 different types of routers you’re selling, it’s nearly impossible to write really good software across all 40 of those products. There’s a reason why Apple’s model is Apple’s model, where they focus on a few products. It’s because the software effort required to make sure things are always up to date, always secure, performing really well, is massive. You want to do that for just the smallest subset of product possible. That’s the first thing, is look at how big a portfolio is and go with a player that’s really focused on one, two, maybe three models, because that allows you to continue to upgrade the software for the product.
For us, we upgrade our software every two to six weeks and keep reacting. Whether or not there’s an issue like Heartbleed, which we saw a couple years ago, or a new vulnerability found in Linux, or recently there was issues with Broadcom wifi chips in Android and iPhones, you want to make sure the company you’re buying from has the capacity to go react to those problems in the market. Then the second piece is what’s the business model and are they trying to use the product in your home to collect more data? I think we saw this with Vizio where it was capturing what people were watching and reselling it. You just got to be really clear with your customers as to what your business model is.
KS: Yours is selling the Eero?
We sell you a premium product, and then recently we also announced a new service called Eero Plus.
KS: Subscription service?
Exactly. When you look at every single device in the home, you can’t put antivirus on a Nest thermostat or a Sonos speaker. The only way to really protect your digital home is at the network where everything connects into it. We have enterprise-grade anti-malware, anti-virus, parental controls with content filtering, botnet detection. All that stuff runs at the network layer, and we’re constantly monitoring to make sure that peoples’ homes are secure.
KS: So they can’t go and attack different devices, turn on, turn off things, spy with them, turn on televisions?
That’s a big part of it.
KS: That’s the goal of that. Getting back just to the idea of business models, when you are competing with people who are using the data for other things, that makes it harder for you all because they don’t really care, you know what I mean? I think Amazon’s probably in the Prime business for other reasons than providing us a delightful house of cards or something like that. What is the challenge like that as an entrepreneur? There’s so many companies like yours who you could come up with, I’m just thinking, just Box or Dropbox or something like that, come up with great ideas and then the bigger companies co-opt them, essentially, and then they use them for other purposes. I’m going to leave Apple out of this because their business isn’t advertising. It’s just products, essentially. As an entrepreneur, how do you compete with that? How difficult is that?
You have to have just a relentless focus on product quality, and it’s like the whole product experience. If you’re offering that product as a check the box and we’re going to add it to this massive portfolio that we already have, that’s what you’re competing against. What we do on the other end is we’re 100 percent committed and focused to the products that we deliver, that is our business. We don’t have another business. We’ve really invested in support, so say you buy an Eero system and you want help configuring that Comcast box and making sure everything really works, we’ve got teams to do that.
My point of view is just stay focused on the product you’re delivering. At the end of the day, you’re really competing over as long of a time window as you can. What you’re trying to do is keep delivering a great experience over as long of a window as you possibly can. That’s how you create trust with customers and that’s how you make sure you get repeat sales, you’re able to grow your portfolio and at the end of the day what you’re trying to do is build a brand and one that people trust.
LG: We have a bunch of reader questions that we want to get to.
KS: We do.
LG: One question I want to ask just for a takeaway for people who are listening, if they’re having problems right now with their Wi-Fi at home and they suspect it might be their router aside from maybe their ISP just slowing down speeds or doing something terrible despite paying like $140 a month or whatever they’re doing — not that I know from personal experience. But if they’re having problems at home, what are the steps you would say …
KS: To check it.
LG: … and don’t just say, “Buy an Eero.” What are the steps you would say people should take right now to improve that situation?
If you have a two- to three-year-old router, you should be in the market to replace it. That’s an easy first step.
KS: Meaning what you get from the cable company typically, right?
If the box that’s providing the internet to your home is two to three years old, you probably should replace it. If you’ve never updated the software on your router, you should replace it.
KS: Most people use a cable connection; do they do that for you typically or no?
It depends. Some of the newer ones do. A lot of the older generation ones do not. It also depends on who your internet provider is. Then if those answers are yes, then you should go do your research and go buy a solution. If you want to do more research, what you could do is download a free speed test app.
LG: Like Ookla or something.
Yeah, speedtest.net is a great one. Stand next to your router, run a speed test. Then go to three or four other locations in your home. If you’re seeing your speeds drop dramatically, then you probably want a Wi-Fi system because it’ll make sure you’ve got coverage everywhere. Those are the steps I would take. Then when you’re out in the market, the things you want, you want first and foremost something that’s going to automatically update itself. The last thing you want to do is think about how are you going to keep your network secure? Then the second is, think about what types of devices you want to connect, and if you want to stream video, definitely go with a higher-end system because you’re going to get better coverage everywhere.
KS: Then your device is connected to Eero’s system, not to whatever your network is, correct?
KS: The new one you create on top of that. That’s what people have to be aware of, because there’ll be your own and then your new one.
You got to switch them over. Alternatively, if you want to avoid paying that modem rental fee from your cable company, you can go buy a cable modem. They’re like $50 to $100.
KS: Give us a few.
There’s SB6190 I think is the one I have at my house.
KS: Wow, that’s a really exciting name.
It really is.
KS: Does it have another name? From who?
I believe it’s from Arris. They bought SURFboard, which previously I believe was a Motorola company. You can buy a modem like that. It’s like $100, so you break even in six months. You put that box in and then you can plug in an Eero or whatever other router you want. The real answer’s just go buy an Eero.
KS: Go buy an Eero.
That one I can vouch for.
LG: I’m shocked that you said that.
KS: People should be doing this because people are really just frustrated. I literally had my kids yell at me six times last week about their internet access, like, “It’s slow, Mom.”
LG: I love the idea of doing anything that takes the services that you’re paying ridiculous amounts of money for to your cable company, a.k.a. ISP, and just being like, “You know what, I’m going to go around and do something that improves my life in a way that you’re not.”
KS: Right, you’re not. Comcast is really nice to me, I don’t know why that is. Maybe because they own …
LG: I don’t know why that is. I don’t know, let me think of a couple reasons and get back to you.
KS: In any case, it is interesting. My kids, they were yelling at me the other day because of the Wi-Fi, and I was thinking, “What the hell am I going to do?” Then I thought, “Oh just stop. Get off your damn screens, kids.” That’s what I said. We were all yelling.
LG: That worked. I’m sure that worked.
It’s summer, go play outside.
KS: I know, exactly. Go away. Go jump around.
LG: Then Louie went and found the hidden iPad that he talked about on our podcast a few weeks ago. He said, “Sure, Mom.”
KS: He wants to come back. He’s coming back. He’s coming back, he’s got some questions.
LG: He’s welcome to come back anytime. That Louie Swisher.
KS: Just very briefly, update on Louie Swisher. He wrote his first hand letter, I won’t say to whom, but someone nice that he likes.
LG: Oh, I thought you were going to say it was to Trump.
KS: No, it wasn’t to Trump.
LG: Like, go Louie.
It wasn’t an apology note?
KS: No, it was a nice letter to a nice person he likes. Anyway, he wrote a letter but he never had written a letter before, and so he didn’t know how to address it. He had the name in one place, the address in another place, the zip code in another place on the envelope, and I was like, “What are you doing?” Then I realized he’d never written a handwritten letter or mailed anything. It was just, it was a moment. I have a picture of the entire process.
LG: That’s kind of amazing.
What a time to be alive.
KS: I know. At first, I was like, “What? Are you an idiot?” Then I’m like, “Oh my god, he’s never done it.”
LG: He’s received letters before. If you receive letters, you see where stuff goes.
KS: Not really, he hasn’t.
LG: Oh, you mean like on the letter itself?
KS: He was doing the address.
LG: Like where the letterhead goes or the date.
KS: “What is this return address thing?”
LG: Does he know what a stamp is?
KS: He figured that one out.
It’s upper right.
KS: Then he went to the mailbox, he’s like, “This is cool. I never did this before.” I was like, “Oh god.”
LG: He’s like, “Does this thing open?”
KS: In any case …
LG: Louie, you’re welcome back any time.
KS: Any time. We can discuss the letter situation.
LG: That would be amazing.
KS: In a minute, we’re going to take some questions about Wi-Fi from our readers and listeners and Nick is going to answer them fully in a fulsome style. First, we’re going to take a quick break for a word from our sponsor. Lauren?
KS: Thank you.
We’re back with Eero CEO Nick Weaver. Now we’re going to take some questions about Wi-Fi from our readers and listeners. Lauren, want to read the first question?
LG: I would love to because it is such a good Too Embarrassed question. This is from Aaron Cohen, @cohencomms on Twitter. “Why does one need a mesh network and what is it? #tooembarrassed.” We kind of already answered this in the beginning, but let’s go over it again quickly.
KS: Let’s go over it again, very briefly.
The key with these Wi-Fi systems is you want to have as many devices in the home broadcasting the internet as possible. Wi-Fi is a radio wave like light and sound, so the further you get away from the source, the more degraded the signal is. If you want fast speeds, you’ve got to be closer to the device that’s broadcasting. That’s the point of a Wi-Fi system, and the reason you’d want it is you want coverage everywhere.
KS: Also because people are using more videos. My kids use so much video, just tons and tons on their phones usually, which is interesting. From D-Rock, @DevinLindelof.
LG: He must be confused with The Rock, although if The Rock ever wrote in I would be so excited.
KS: Do you know what, I’m trying to get The Rock for Code next year.
LG: Oh my goodness. I mean Dwayne. You know he tweets back at The Verge people sometimes and it makes my day.
KS: I love him so. I have to tell you.
LG: We’re going to have to fight over him.
KS: No, I don’t think so. I feel not, that’ll be my man.
“Is it worth buying into mesh networks now or is it better to wait until 802.11AD becomes norm in devices?” Explain 802. I’m so sick of 802.11. Just explain what AD is. Go ahead.
802 is a new standard.
KS: Why do they do these letters on the end.
It’s how the IEEE does standards.
KS: Okay, I don’t even know what that …
802.11AD is different from Wi-Fi. AD runs in 60 gigahertz. For Wi-Fi you’ve got 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz, kind of the higher up you go the less good the signal is at getting through walls and obstructions. 60 gigs is really good for in that room, but it’s not good for whole-home coverage. Absolutely, if you need a system now, you need better coverage now, AD is not going to help. Buy now.
KS: When is it coming?
KS: What will it do?
There aren’t really any devices that support 802.11AD.
KS: What will it magically do?
That’s a great question. I don’t have an answer for you.
LG: Okay, soon.
KS: It’s like 5G.
LG: D-Rock, not The Rock, it’s okay to buy now and not wait for that. I think we can both be friends with The Rock.
KS: Yeah, I think not.
When do I get to weigh in on that?
LG: Would you like to be friends with The Rock as well?
LG: I mean who wouldn’t?
KS: You can buy an expensive ticket to Code and then come see him. I’m getting The Rock. Go ahead.
LG: Next question is also not from The Rock. Sorry. No question on this program is from The Rock this week, but perhaps in the future. Dan Perri, @NASADan, I think he might work for NASA, perhaps, or likes NASA. That’s fine.
KS: Could be.
LG: “How does one go about replacing their crappy ISP-provided router with a mesh? Easy to do with, say, the U-verse DSL weird router thing?” I love these questions. U-verse is AT&T. ISP of course is internet service provider. I was just ranting about ISPs earlier. He wants to know, we talked about this, but let’s go over it again, how to replace your crappy router that your cable company gives you.
KS: You rip it out, you unplug it and then what? You buy yourself a router.
With the U-verse one, I know this well. My in-laws have U-verse, and I have personally set up Eero in their house.
LG: They must like you.
LG: They must be like, “Oh it’s okay.”
What you end up doing with the U-verse stuff, just plug, say, your first Eero in or whatever system you choose to buy, plug the ethernet cord on the back of the U-verse box and then you’re ready to go.
KS: You have to keep their weird router thing?
With U-verse, I believe you got to keep their box.
KS: Their weird-looking box.
You can then log into the U-verse box and turn off their Wi-Fi and all that stuff. If you need help doing that, we’ve got a support team that walks people through it. You could also just google it and there’s usually a walkthrough everywhere.
KS: Can I ask you a complete dumb question? Why are those boxes so freaking ugly? The new ones are real ugly, the big whatever. Why are they?
It wasn’t a core part of the product design experience. It was not something that was valued.
KS: Yeah, because they’re real ugly. They’re hard to hide.
LG: You ever seen those ones that look like a spider?
KS: No. I don’t like any of them.
Fourteen antennas. Actually walks around your house when you’re asleep.
LG: Our Verge readers love those things.
KS: Shh. Don’t scare our readers with that creepy idea of your router killing you. That’d be such a horror film nobody would go to.
Matthew Pinzur, “Is there a way to use an extender without having two different network names?” That does drive me crazy. “Been told that giving an extender the same name will create problems?” Does it? That’s a good point.
That’s exactly why we created the Eero system.
KS: It just replaces the name?
Yeah, it replaces the extender. So the problem with extenders is they’re running different software than your main network and then you end up having all these different names. There’s no roaming. It just doesn’t work. That’s why we created this product.
KS: It just steals a name. You can have the same name as your old one did?
KS: What’s your favorite name?
I’ll have to think about that. I’ll come back on Twitter.
KS: I’ll tell you one very quick story. In the neighborhood, and I’m not going to tell you what executive it is, but there’s a very disliked executive in Palo Alto. This particular executive, all the neighbors have named their routers “I hate” and then the person’s name and “fuck this person’s name” and “this person’s a bad neighbor,” which is really funny because you can see it when you’re in the neighborhood.
I have some pretty entertaining ones around me.
KS: I know, but it’s really, I keep wanting to write a story about it. I don’t know. Those neighbors hate this person so much.
You just grab your iPhone and screenshot the Wi-Fi settings?
KS: I keep thinking about writing a story about it but then I’m like, “It’s too mean.” The neighbors are real mean. You can just get a snapshot of the neighborhood by looking at their router. Come on, think of a good name. What’s your favorite name? The Castro has some dirty ones. They’re all dirty, right?
I’m going to have to get back to you.
KS: Look at you, you’re turning red.
LG: I’ve seen Pretty Fly for a Wi-Fi. I like that one.
That one comes around a lot.
LG: Yeah, comes around pretty good. Also, every so often you see someone that just says NSA, which is kind of funny.
Yeah, or FBI Surveillance Van.
KS: That’s good. That’s interesting. I’m going to call mine Scaramucci. Anyway, go ahead. Next one.
LG: How about just Karamucci.
KS: Karamucci, oh it’s done.
KS: It’s done.
LG: Kara1234 if anyone wants to hop on.
You can make your guest network Mooch.
LG: The Mooch.
This next question’s from Dan Seifert from The Verge who reviewed your latest Eero not too long ago. He had a question.
KS: He has several questions.
LG: He said, “When we will see more services for the Eero Plus Subscription Service and how many customers have signed up for it so far?” He said, “It seems like the actual business plan for these independent router companies is in subscription services,” because he wisely points out, “people only buy router hardware once or twice a decade.” They don’t upgrade often.
LG: You’re in a slow upgrade cycle, you have to sell the subscription service. When are we going to see more services as a part of that subscription?
I don’t have anything specific to announce now, but I can tell you there’s a large part of our team that’s continuing to build out services for Eero Plus.
KS: Could you go to homes and help people set up? Could that be part of your business?
We do it with Enjoy today.
KS: Do you?
We rolled that out I think last week. So far that’s been working out really well.
KS: Best Buy, you could do it with Best Buy.
With the Geek Squad, yep.
KS: They’re actually pretty good. They came to my house and did a nice job.
LG: How many customers are paying for a subscription service?
A lot more than we thought.
LG: What does that mean?
I don’t have a number for you.
LG: What did you think? Give me the baseline for what you thought would be a healthy amount.
KS: Three. One’s his mom. What is it?
We looked at what services were we going to put into Eero Plus. We basically polled a lot of our user base, the top two requested features were network security and parental controls. The numbers have been higher than we had thought.
KS: Can you very briefly talk about what those parental controls do? Because I’d like to know.
You can create a profile for your kid. You can add their devices to it, and then you can say no more internet after 8:00 or after 10:00 PM.
KS: I see.
No internet basically within a time frame.
KS: Can you see who’s on your network too?
Yeah. Then you can set content filtering roles so you can say no adult content, no explicit content, no violent content, and then you get this lovely block page if they try to access that type of stuff.
KS: Verizon you can do that too, whatever. There’s a thing, I always turn my kids phones off just for fun sometimes. Just on my app. Also, my neighbor steals my internet all the time. I cut him off all the time. Bob.
At least with our stuff you can see your …
KS: What the hell, Bob? Cheap bastard.
You can see all the connected devices. You can just tap in there and say, “All right, my neighbor was last on an hour ago.”
LG: It’s also amazing, you forget how many devices you have in your home and then you open something like the Eero app or the Google WiFi app and you’re like “42 connected devices,” and they’re mine. Well of course I’m a tech reviewer.
KS: My cheap-ass neighbors is what I have.
Wow, you got 42.
LG: You know what, I think that was actually a number I saw Dan use at some point.
KS: I’m going to check.
LG: I can’t personally say that I have 42 right now, but possibly.
KS: I’m going to see who’s on mine. I bet Casey Newton steals. Oh he does. Casey Newton gets mine.
I’ve got like 30.
LG: He lives in the house behind yours.
KS: I know, but he just grabs my internet. He just does.
What you could do is you could set up a …
KS: A Casey Newton page.
… a profile for Casey and you could shut off his internet at certain hours and turn on content filtering.
KS: Oh my god, I’m totally going to do that. That’s how I’ll beat him onto a story.
LG: I was just going to say, what if you’re both filing stories.
KS: Not like that’s a problem. I’m going to win on that one there.
LG: Oh my god Kara.
KS: Sorry Casey. You’re too slow. Too Slow Casey Newton. Anyway, I’m going to do that to Casey. Oh my god, he’ll go crazy. That’ll be great. It’ll be so good. There were so many other pranks I wanted to play on him, but that’ll work fine.
Caio Tomaz — thank you for the idea, I’ll say you gave me the idea, Nick. “All home automation systems are chaos. Why do we need bridges and have so many protocols? What protocols talk amongst each other?” Chaos.
It is chaos. A lot of these things have all been homegrown.
KS: They exhaust me. I can’t put them on.
Part of the problem with these bridges and hubs is there hasn’t been reliable infrastructure in the home, and so everyone’s had to go build their own. What we try to do with our new products is in addition to Wi-Fi we also added Thread. Thread’s a low-power standard. It’s kind of where the industry’s headed in terms of low-power connectivity, so things for sensors and door locks and lights, it’s just going to take a while for it to all come together. I 100 percent agree.
KS: For years now, decades.
It’s been total madness.
LG: Yeah, because if you look at all the smart home products, not the routers themselves but a lot of the smart home products, whether they’re smart lights.
KS: They’re in a box in my house. I don’t have the energy to connect it.
LG: Motion sensors or whatever, some work on Zigby, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, there’s so many different protocols. Then on top of that the companies are building their software platforms and some of those software platforms work with each other and some of them don’t. It depends on whose competitive with who.
KS: Very chaos.
LG: It gets really confusing.
A lot of them have been cloud to cloud and that is fine, but the internet goes down, the cloud becomes unavailable.
KS: Consumers don’t care.
You want things to just run in the house.
KS: Consumers don’t care.
You’re competing against basically a lock that always works as long as you have a key or a light switch that works 1,000 times in a row until the light burns out.
KS: Yeah. Those automated homes, I was in one of these internet guy’s houses, and he had the thing to turn on the lights, which was the most ridiculous and he was super proud of it and went on and on about it. He’s like, “Then I just couldn’t turn on the lights,” and then there was a switch, I’m like, “Oh look. It works just fine.” It was astonishing. They had this big closet hidden away.
With the rack and all that stuff.
KS: Like crazy.
I used to install that stuff in high school and college.
KS: Did you?
KS: Did those people annoy you?
Some of them.
KS: I bet. I had a guy I had dinner with where he went on … What’s CAT7? What’s the latest CAT, the highest CAT?
KS: Six or seven.
There’s CAT6, CAT6A or CAT7A. It’s going up there.
KS: He was into his CAT6, and I’m literally like, “I’m going to take this butter knife and kill you.”
LG: With a butter knife, that’s a slow painful death.
KS: Anything. I was like, stop talking about your stupid CAT6. It went on and on and on. Then I turned to Mossberg and I said, “I’m moving, you’re sitting next to this guy.” He was an advertiser, so I had to do it.
LG: Shameless plug for Too Embarrassed to Ask, but after this podcast if you want to hear more about the smart home, we have taped a couple of episodes on this. Last year we taped one with Alex Hawkinson of Smart Things asking, “Why is my smart home so dumb?”
KS: So dumb.
LG: We had Dan Seifert on a couple times to talk about this as well, so go look those up when you’re done with this episode.
KS: Thank you.
LG: You’re welcome.
KS: They have to build them from the ground up, that’s why. There are no wires.
LG: I think it’s starting to happen. Wait, let’s go to the next question because this is actually relevant to this, and I loved this question. This is from Tharindi and she asked, “Can routers etc. be built into building infrastructure like lighting, heating so I don’t have to think about it every time I move to a new flat?”
KS: They’re from London.
LG: A flat, sounds so much more elegant than apartment.
KS: Why doesn’t that happen? People don’t think about that when they’re building homes, or maybe they do now.
When you think about the upgrade cycle, you want to upgrade this hardware every two to four years. When you’re constructing a building from scratch …
KS: It’s in the walls.
… when you do lighting and you do cabling, the lifespan for that is 15, 20, 30 years, and so what you want to do is just decouple those two things. It’s fine installing internet connectivity, maybe you mount them in the closet, you have them in a few places strategically around the home, but you want to make sure it’s really easy to swap them out as the technology evolves and as the demands in the home increase.
LG: What if Ikea built routers and mesh networking systems into its furniture?
KS: Because then you’d throw it out.
LG: Ikea furniture, you just buy, you just throw it out, it doesn’t matter, you upgrade it. You’re like, “I need another Malm dresser” or whatever it is.
Then it’s going to add $200 to that Malm dresser.
LG: We’re thinking big here, Nick. You should go talk to Ikea. You’re welcome.
KS: Then they could put stuff in it. I’m always worried about everybody. I saw “Atomic Blonde” this weekend and they got her, they put something in the thing.
LG: We all know Hollywood is very true to life.
KS: Let me just say, that was the best movie I ever saw.
LG: I want to see it. I want to see it.
KS: It’s so good. She kicks some ass.
LG: I read this fantastic article in BuzzFeed over the weekend about how Charlize Theron is effortlessly cool and people call her a bitch because she’s a woman. She’s a tough lady.
KS: No. She’s my new favorite action hero. Go see “Atomic Blonde.” There’s a lot of technology in it. There’s a lot of technology. A lot of spying.
LG: We just covered so many topics.
I’m attempting to go on vacation next week, so I’m going to see it.
KS: Go see “Atomic Blonde.” Go see it.
LG: Really, routers in Ikea furniture.
KS: There were lots of routers in this movie. There had to be.
LG: Did they look like spiders that tried to kill people?
KS: They used a lot of internet to spy on each other. They lied and then they lied about lying and then they lied about lying about lying.
LG: Sounds like an administration we know.
KS: Then there was some lady action. The whole thing was fantastic. The entire experience was tech and Charlize Theron kicking ass.
Anshul Kapoor, @IAmAnshul. Anshul writes a lot. “Has Apple killed Apple Express?” That’s a good question. Steve Jobs introduced it at one of our AllThingsD’s 109 years ago. “I use it for Wi-Fi and house music system. What can I use instead compatible with Apple Music?” Mine still works, I got to tell you. It works just fine. I plug it in the wall. That was the easiest thing I ever dealt with, just plug it in the wall, attach it to your ethernet and it was great, I have to say.
There was a couple reports recently this year that said that product line was being sunsetted. I don’t think Apple’s officially announced anything, but it certainly hasn’t been a focus of theirs for the last two years.
KS: No, but it was a simple system. It was the first time anyone ever thought … of course it’s Apple, making it easy.
Absolutely. For music today, I use Sonos at my house. I have a couple of their speakers and also the Sonos Connect to be able to really easily stream with it.
KS: Sonos is great.
Works with Apple Music, Spotify, basically all the things.
KS: I like Sonos.
LG: No voice control yet, that’s all I have to say about that.
KS: Really? I doubt that’s all you have to say about that. I have a Sonos, I never use it. I don’t know why. I don’t like music that much.
LG: That’s because Casey Newton has taken it over in your house.
KS: He just plays techno all day long, electronic.
Casey wants to get back at you if he’s on your Wi-Fi. He can turn on your Sonos.
KS: As if Casey Newton could get back at me in any format.
LG: I like Sonos. I love them.
KS: Like Charlize Theron, I would kick his ass, I’m just saying. Okay, let’s go.
That’s the sequel.
KS: I love that Casey Newton. Just saying, he’s a great, great tenant.
LG: He is great. He’s on vacation right now.
KS: Don’t tell everybody. Gee. Go ahead.
LG: Sorry, he’s home right now. He’s safe at home. Don’t try to break in, he’s there.
KS: He’s there.
LG: Right now.
KS: Manning the Swisher home. Go ahead.
LG: Next question and last question is from Devon Michael Dundee.
KS: Dundee. I love that name.
LG: Who I’m sure never heard jokes about “Crocodile Dundee.”
KS: No, never.
LG: “We think of Wi-Fi as the way we get wireless internet, but doesn’t it have other capabilities? What else is Wi-Fi used for?”
KS: Yeah, that’s a good question. That’s a big question there, Nick.
I think it’s less about what’s Wi-Fi used for but what’s the box used for. When you’re thinking about this network that’s in your home, it’s a great place to deliver software and experiences, and it’s that single point of connectivity for all the different devices in your home.
The way we look at this is how do you get as many computers into people’s homes. How do you make sure you can update them and add experiences, basically turn it into an operating system? That’s ultimately where things are going. You look at the home. There are very few devices that every home needs. Great connectivity is absolutely one of those things. Rather than building a thermostat or a speaker or a light switch, build the device that 100 percent of homes need and then expand from there.
KS: You could build a light switch, eh? You could have a light switch?
Sure. No immediate plans to build a light switch.
KS: I just want to make sure.
LG: Hold on, I’m actually going through the script here and I’m looking for the last question from Dwayne Johnson.
KS: It’s not there. I do have a last question. Actually you’re talking about in the home, but I don’t use public networks very often. I use my phone.
LG: You shouldn’t use them ever, Kara.
KS: Ever or VPN. In any case, sometimes you need the internet somewhere. Have you been selling these in bigger places, public places, these Eero devices, and what are the implications of using? Let’s warn people again, people can spy on you, but say you put these in, it would necessarily protect them possibly?
We haven’t done any big public installations. It’s just a really different business model. There what you’re selling is professional services. You’re selling the monitoring, and the support when the network goes down.
KS: You could if you have this great ability.
You could. Where we’ve decided to focus is the home network, it’s growing so quickly. We’re just in the early innings of getting it in people’s homes so we’re going to keep doing that.
KS: You’re an expert, so public Wi-Fi, give people some tips around that.
I travel a lot. I would suggest using a VPN and then being careful about which networks you connect to. Don’t just connect to the open network that you randomly stumbled across. Use one that is either provided by the hotel you’re staying in or on the airplane or the official SFO network and then use VPN software.
The other thing you can do is, like I just changed my cell plan so it can tether to my iPhone, and so when I’m traveling a lot I just use tethering off of my phone to send a quick email so you don’t have to deal with turning on a VPN.
KS: Turning on a VPN. Can you, just for listeners, when you’re on these Wi-Fis, what are the keys to keeping yourself clean, as if you were lecturing them on sexually transmitted diseases? Explain in your own home. Sorry. It’s like, it’s a virus, right? Okay, so what are the key things in your house for keeping your network clean?
Biggest is buy products from reputable brands. Say you want to buy a camera for your home. Don’t buy the $30 camera that you found a random Amazon listing for. Buy one from a brand that you trust. That’s probably the single biggest thing that you can do is buy devices that are from known companies that have a commitment to updating the software and making sure the experience works. That costs more money, but it’s absolutely worth it.
KS: You don’t want to buy Stan’s camera something.
KS: Like, “We steal your cameras.”
LG: Home surveillance camera.
Used connected products also can be problematic, so just be careful with what you buy on eBay.
KS: Why is that? Explain that.
Because people can put whatever software they want on it.
KS: Yes, I saw that episode. There was a show where that happened.
I think there’s been a couple articles in the last week or so about Amazon removing listings from products, some specifically like Android phones that are the lowest-priced product, but they’re also sending back private information like passwords and data on the phones back to malicious servers.
The key, again, buy from reputable companies and be willing to spend a little bit more because saving the extra $20 is certainly not worth it when someone grabs all your banking credentials or is able to look in that camera and record everything that’s going on.
KS: Then passwords, same thing with passwords and network names.
Use strong passwords when you can. Make sure your Wi-Fi network has a password, and that’s why we’ve got the ability to look at all the devices that connect to your network. You should be able to parse through them and say, “Hey I don’t know these few,” and then you can go change your password or block devices that you don’t know. Then in terms of just passwords in general, set up two-factor authentication for things like your email.
KS: Password managers.
Try to use a password manager. It’s a little clunky, but again, the cost can be very high if you have an issue.
LG: Get your password and here you go.
KS: Authentication, everybody, Comcast keeps promising me they’re going to have it and they don’t. It’s incredible, but everybody should use it.
LG: They’re so nice to you.
KS: They’re not going to change their entire, whatever. They should use it. They’re idiots. We’re not using it there. They should. They should offer it for people at least so they can keep themselves clean like I like to do. Just so you know. Any final words, Nick? Buy an Eero, besides buy an Eero.
Hey, you said it, not me. Thanks for having me.
KS: It’s no problem. This has been another great episode of Too Embarrassed To Ask.
LG: Yes Nick, thank you so much for joining us.