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Apple is said to be considering the purchase of a home automation company called R2 Studios, but both Google and Microsoft are also said to be potential buyers.
All three companies were named in a story published by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday in connection with startup id8 Group R2 Studios Inc. The company was created in 2011 by entrepreneur Blake Krikorian, who founded Sling Media Inc., maker of the Slingbox TV streaming device.
R2 Studios is developing home automation technology, but as of yet does not have any products on the market aside from an Android application that can control heating and lighting systems.
To date, Apple has not directly entered the home automation market, but the company has arranged deals to sell home accessories compatible with iOS devices in its retail stores. Most recently, Apple reached an exclusive agreement to sell Philips hue, an app-controlled LED bulb.
Apple's stores also carry the Nest Learning Thermostat, a device that intelligently reduces users' power bills and connects to iOS devices with an accompanying application available on the App Store. The Nest was also designed by Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive credited with the creation of the original iPod click-wheel interface.
Apple has also filed patent applications that hint the company is interest in home automation functionality. One filing discovered this year by AppleInsider showed how multiple devices, including Apple hardware as well as third-party devices like cable boxes, PlayStation gaming controllers and home sprinkler systems, could be connected and controlled through near-field communication technology.
Google has been more public about its interest in home automation, announcing at its annual I/O conference in 2011 that it would release an LED light bulb that can be controlled by Android devices. The company's secretive 'X' labs are said to be home to concepts for connected devices including everything from garden planters to coffee pots.