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5/31/2012
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Google Play Store Beefs Up Hardware Section

Google sells more hardware in the Google Play Store with the addition of accessories for the Galaxy Nexus. Is Google stocking up ahead of the Nexus tablet launch?

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The Google Play Store's hardware department just got a little bit bigger. This week, Google stocked the store with accessories for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Owners of the Galaxy Nexus can now choose from three different docks for their smartphone.

Though docking accessories might not be the most interesting gear for sale, their addition to the store indicates that Google is serious about selling physical goods.

Earlier this year, Google resurrected direct-to-consumer sales of Nexus-class smartphones. Though it tried to sell them during the first half of 2010, it gave up on the effort due to poor traction. Since then, Google launched the Google Play Store--itself a rebranding of the Android Market that now includes music, movies, and books. With such a dramatic relaunch of its content store, the time seems ripe for the addition of hardware.

[ Read Google Play Merges Android Market With Music, eBookStore. ]

Google offers the GSM/HSPA+ variant of the Galaxy Nexus available in the Google Play Store for $399. That price doesn't include a contract with any U.S. network operator, but it can be used on the networks run by AT&T or T-Mobile USA.

After the Galaxy Nexus hit the Google Play Store, a flood of reports suggested that Google is also ready to add a Nexus-class Android tablet to its store. Google wants to win tablet market share from Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle, and to do that it will sell devices that are co-branded with its hardware manufacturer. Rather than sell just one Google-branded tablet from a single OEM, the search giant will offer several devices from a range of manufacturers. Motorola, Samsung, and Asus are the probable hardware partners. Asus, apparently, is on deck to offer the first tablet and will likely have an exclusive spot as the lone device available for a short time.

Finally, it appears that Google is preparing to partner with more hardware vendors to sell more Nexus devices later this year. Google plans to give five hardware makers early access to Android 5.0 Jelly Bean and will sell the resulting handsets directly to consumers via the Google Play Store. The impetus behind this change is to give Google more control over what features and applications are available on the handsets. Google hopes to sidestep the level of control exerted by wireless network operators, who often install their own apps and services on smartphones they sell with wireless contracts.

Circling back to the accessories that now populate the store, there are three. The Galaxy Nexus Vehicle Navigation Mount, which would be ideal for the mobile professional who often travels by car, sells for $54.

The Galaxy Nexus HDMI docking station charges the device and lets Galaxy Nexus device owners stream content to their HDTV via the integrated HDMI port. The HDMI dock sells for $49.

Last, the Desktop Dock is an ideal place to rest the Galaxy Nexus while at work or at home. It charges the Galaxy Nexus and offers audio out via a 3.5mm headset jack. It costs $54.

Smartphones, tablets, and docks, oh my! Google might only have just finalized its purchase of Motorola Mobility, but it clearly has a game plan for hardware.

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