The last time I felt like this is when Google made a phone.
"What does Google, a search engine, know about real, inanimate things?" I wondered.
Of course, what I should have been asking was "What does Google, a search engine, know about selling real, inanimate things?"
For, despite their attractions, the Nexus came and went and the Pixel came and hasn't gone very far.
This leads me into the next software-becomes-hardware experiment, this one quite grandiose.
Kayak has just announced it's opening a hotel in April. Yes, that Kayak, the travel search site owned by the same company as Priceline, Booking Holdings.
When The Points Guy pointed out this new development, I was temporarily rendered insensate. Then I thought: "Would I ever stay at Travelocity Towers? Or the Expedia Excelsior? How about Priceline Palace, a boutique hotel?"
Has COVID-19 made hotel brands so woolly and diffuse that anyone can now open a hotel?
Well, this first Kayak Hotel is in Miami Beach, where all sorts of flotsam efforts are made up, dolled up, and sold to unsuspecting visitors. I've stayed many times in South Beach and occasionally had the most bizarre experiences. (Encountering John McAfee, for example.)
Yet Kayak insists this move has deep technological roots. The company told Travel Weekly that the Kayak Hotel will be a "design lab." Oh, and it'll apparently be a test site for software innovations. Like being able to summon staff from your iPhone and demanding a green tea?
You need to have a hotel for tech experiments? Well, perhaps.
"What we envision is being able to use your device to check-in, check out, message housekeeping, make reservations, get takeout or delivery, and have your room set up the way you want and personalized," explained Kayak CEO Steve Hafner.
Oh, I get it. Kayak wants all the smaller, more independent hotels to all use the Kayak app, one that travelers likely already have on their phones.
And then a very, very Googley notion. As Travel Weekly puts it: "Hafner added that hotels that opt to use the Kayak app will also be highlighted within Kayak's search results."
It's like having Google highlight search results it favors? Well, I never.
You will adore some of Kayak's inducements. Sample: "At Kayak Miami Beach, your stay is genuinely by your design."
You mean I can design my own room? Well, only a little. I can design my own meals? I'm guessing not entirely. It's near the Design District? Not very.
Instead, this seems to mean that you're not actually on the beach, nor very near the South Beach nightlife, so you'll have to design your own ideas of what you want to do.
Which is perfectly tech-libertarian. You have your technology-enabled everything, so your choices are endless.
Also, tech-libertarian is the delightful phrase: "Locally inspired and tech-enabled." Those locals would never be able to open a hotel on their own, would they?
One can see, indeed, how COVID-19 has made hotels employ a lot more technology and far fewer people. The last time I was in a hotel, I found the whole experience a little uncomfortable and it was nothing to do with the staff. It was the ethereal possibility of Covid.
I'll be riveted to see how the Kayak Hotel, Miami Beach will fare. I might even visit, if I ever feel able to sit next to someone on a plane again.
Kayak's move, though, does make one wonder about how software companies might further enter into the physical world.
Perhaps Microsoft missed something when it closed all its stores.