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Google Charges Into the Living Room With New Nexus Q Streamer

Google Charges Into the Living Room With New Nexus Q Streamer

The Nexus Q is Google's latest take on a set-top box. Unveiled at the Google I/O conference and billed as a social streaming media player, the Q streams content to a connected television and can be controlled via Android mobile devices. It's Google's way of stepping into the living room, which lines it up for a fight with both Microsoft and Apple.

By Richard Adhikari
06/28/12 6:00 AM PT

Google worked toward pulling together its ecosystem Wednesday, announcing an array of new products and services at its I/O Developer Conference.

In addition to its widely anticipated Nexus 7 tablet, the company unveiled its Nexus Q media streamer and its Google Cloud Messaging service for Android; made much of its enhancements to Google Play; and launched a demonstration of Google Glass, its smart eyepiece.

The Nexus Q works with a smartphone or tablet running Android 2.3 or higher with access to Google Play. Google is billing it as the world's first social streaming media player.

Google Cloud Messaging for Android cuts down on the amount of data traffic between developers' servers and their Android applications. It replaces the Android Cloud to Device Messaging Framework.

Meanwhile, Google is seeking to give Google Play a bigger role as an online content hub and has formed content partnerships with major content owners such as Disney, Universal and Paramount, as well as with magazine publishers.

Q Joins Streaming Media Device Lineup

Google's Nexus Q media streaming device is coming out in a pretty crowded market. Players include Apple TV, Roku, the Sony PlayStaion 3, the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Boxee Box.

The Nexus Q is controlled by an Android smartphone or tablet. It lets owners' friends add music to its storage from their own Google Play libraries and lets anyone with an Android device move songs around the queue and take control of the Nexus Q. If users have multiple Nexus Qs in the house, they can sync up the devices to play the same music on all of them.

The device "is entering a crowded market with high constraints -- it must have an Android device on the [local area network] to use it or it becomes a paperweight," Carl Howe, a director at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. "My initial reaction is that it will barely surpass Google TV's sales, meaning sales will be few, and will be Google's equivalent of Apple's HiFi."

The iPod HiFi was a speaker system released by Apple in early 2006 for use with any iPod. It was pulled from Apple's lineup in late 2007 after being heavily criticized.

Creating the Google Ecosystem

"The Nexus Q seems to be more deeply integrated with associated Android-based devices than any similar products," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld. "That could change if, as has been rumored, Apple integrates its upcoming Apple TV product with the iPhone or iPad." Meanwhile, Microsoft "also seems to be planning on integrating some Zune and Xbox features with its new Surface tablets."

The Nexus Q "is an adorable little device," said Andrew Eisner, director of community and content at Retrevo. "It's another component in the Google ecosystem and this seems to be what Apple and Microsoft are promoting."

The addition of more content to Google Play appears to be part of Google's ecosystem buildup.

Google's Play content "is absolutely essential if the Nexus Q is to have a chance of competing," the Yankee Group's Howe said. "Otherwise, consumers will buy an Apple TV at one-third the price."

The Nexus Q, which will ship in mid-July, comes at $200 for an 8 GB version and $300 for a 16 GB version. The Apple TV is priced at $99.

Meanwhile, Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) for Android is more than a convenient and inexpensive way for devs to push out data to their apps. "Google's Cloud Messaging sends a very simple message: Carriers who are depending on SMS revenue should expect it to go away," Howe stated.

Fighting for the Living Room

The actions Google's taken toward pulling together its ecosystem is another step in the battle for the living room, Retrevo's Eisner told TechNewsWorld. "The question's which company's going to control the living room -- Google with Google Play and now the Nexus Q, or Microsoft, or Apple?"

The unveiling of the Nexus Q "leaves some of the other vendors like Samsung, Vizio, Dell and HP out there," Eisner pointed out. "It now looks like a three-way battle for the living room."


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