Google's home entertainment device will be a WiFi system for streaming music and likely controlling Google TV and other home products. Apple will also play here.
The Wall Street Journal
report that Google is building a home entertainment system
to let users stream music throughout the home without wires has roiled the tech
sector the last couple of days.
The news comes several months after Google unveiled a
streaming music server that let users tap a CD against a
device to scan the music into Google's Music storage locker.
The experimental product, dubbed Project Tungsten at
Google I/O last May, falls under the company's Android @Home banner for
powering home consumer electronics and eventually home appliances such as
lights, thermostats, refrigerators and microwaves with the company's Android
Google has asked the Federal Communications Commission permission to have 252
Google employees test the prototype device in Google's hometown of Mountain
View, Calif.; Los Angeles; Cambridge, Mass.; and New York City.
According to the patent application
which GigaOm discovered
, users will connect their devices to home WiFi networks
and use Bluetooth to connect to other home electronics equipment. The device is
designed to test the throughput and stability of the home WiFi networks that
will support the device.The system will certainly leverage Google's Music
streaming service and work with Google TV, the company's Web-based television
service. These products could be controlled via Android smartphones and tablets.
However, while Google simply licenses the Android-based
Google TV software to TV OEMs such as Sony and Vizio, Google will allegedly
market and brand the home entertainment device under its own name. This is
unusual for a company given to releasing Android under open source and letting
OEMs build products.
Research analyst James McQuivey told eWEEK
Google's biggest challenge will be in explaining to
people that whatever it wants to sell is a platform rather than a product. Such a device could get lost in the muddle of other
home TV devices from Sonos, Roku and Logitech.
Yet if Google can sell Android as a single
controlling platform for all home electronics rather than just a single
consumer electronics device "they have a shot at defining a new category."
Pundits opine that Google will fumble this project away
has no experience building and marketing hardware products, let alone consumer
electronics devices. Others argue
Google will tap Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI), which makes set-top
boxes, for its hardware and marketing expertise.
Both points are valid and yet Google has other challenges. Microsoft's Xbox 360 is a home entertainment gaming and streaming system.
Apple, already dominant in consumer electronics, is purportedly preparing
to launch its own Web-based super TV system this year. Such a device would sync
across Apple's Macs, iPhones and iPads, all tethered by the company's iCloud
storage service. McQuivey noted:
Apple's forthcoming TV won't just
be a TV, it has to be a home information and experience management platform. It may not even be designed to replace your living room TV [replacement cycles are too long there to get the kind of sales spike Apple
will want], but it will definitely be designed to manage your whole lifeall
your media, your personal information, and eventually the full body of data
that you generate each day, including how well you slept last night, how much
you weigh today, and whether you're fighting more with your spouse than before.
"That's where all of this ends.
Google knows it, Apple wants it, Microsoft might accidentally get there first,
and Facebook is most likely to be the glue that connects people to it all. It's
the technology platform holy grail, of course, but you can't sell it that way
today. You have to sell it as a TV streaming device that happens to have an app
Google might have an advantage in addressing a larger
market, something Android lends itself to naturally by remaining open source.
Apple, however, will target existing Apple users who have their Macs, iPhones
and iPadsand certainly the existing Apple TV users.
"Google has to strike now in order to signal to
people that there will be a more open alternative, one in which you can buy
from Samsung, Verizon, and even Amazon and have it all accrue to the same
platform," McQuivey said.
"Will they do it well? I'm not confident
they will, but if they wait and try to follow quickly like they did with
tablets, they might spend five years catching up."