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Shira Ovide

Hardware's Hard Knocks

It's far easier to develop code than nurture a physical product.

For years, technology industry financiers steered clear of consumer electronics and hardware. It was too difficult to take on the complex tasks of developing gear, manufacturing the physical products and finding shelf space at stores. Internet and software companies are comparatively clean and simple. Google and Facebook are just lines of computer code.

Then a few years ago, companies such as Jawbone Inc., Nest Labs and Roku Inc. started to defy the conventional wisdom that consumer hardware was dull and a dead end. Contract manufacturing with Asian factories, low-cost 3D printing, online sales and community fundraising websites like Kickstarter made it easier for hardware projects to get off the ground. Money from the traditional tech financiers at venture capital firms also started pouring in.