Google Works On Android-Based Gaming Console

Google plans Android-based devices such as a gaming console, smartwatch and a revised Nexus Q.
Google I/O: 10 Key Developments
Google I/O: 10 Key Developments
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Google hopes to tackle the gaming industry with a console of its own, reports The Wall Street Journal. The videogame console will be based on the company's Android platform, which Google is ready to push beyond the boundaries of its popular smartphones and tablets.

Few details about the Android-based gaming console were provided by the Journal's anonymous sources, but the product would compete with similar devices from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft and Sony have both announced next-generation gaming consoles in recent months, which are expected to debut later this year. Content sales for these gaming consoles amounts to a staggering $25 billion per year. It's a big market, and Google sees an opportunity.

Google is banking on the popularity of games written for the Android platform, but it's unclear just how well they will scale when pushed to the big screen and used with controllers rather than touch screens. Other hardware makers are already working on similar plans, such as Ouya, which sells its own $99 Android-based console.

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Google might also be looking to preempt Apple, which might add gaming features to the next generation of the Apple TV.

In addition to the gaming console, the Journal reiterates reports from earlier this year that Google is working on a smartwatch based on Android. The watch will connect to Android-based smartphones using Bluetooth and will be able to pass information such as call logs, messages and other notifications back and forth. The watch would follow several products already in the market, such as the Pebble and Sony SmartWatch 2. Apple is reportedly working on its own iOS-based smartwatch, but the company isn't expected to reveal any such devices until later this year.

Google is also working on a next-generation Nexus Q multimedia device for living rooms. The original Nexus Q was announced at Google's 2012 developer conference. The device was handed out to attendees of the conference, but never went on sale to the general public. It was costly at $299, and it didn't have nearly as many features as the Apple TV did. Google scrapped plans to launch it. Part of the problem was the price. The Nexus Q was three times as much as the Apple TV, which has deep hooks into Apple's iTunes content store. The Nexus Q was limited to pushing content from Android smartphones and tablets to television sets.

It's not clear if the next-generation Nexus Q would replace or complement services such as Google TV.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of information to come from the Journal's report, however, is that Google is working on the hardware designs for these items in-house. Google is developing the gaming console, watch and Nexus Q in its Google X lab, which is separate from Motorola's design and engineering business. Further, Google will sell these devices directly to consumers through the Google Play Store, rather than rely on retailers to push them. Google's in-house efforts have had mixed results, with the Nexus Q the most obvious failure.

The battle for the living room is a big one. Google might have more success if its gaming, media-streaming and TV products were combined into one, all-powerful unit, rather than separate pieces of gear. One of the benefits of devices such as Sony's PlayStation is that it not only plays games, but it plays Blu-Ray movies and can be used to stream music and photos and even interact with others online through the use of cameras and messaging services. It does a lot for a single piece of gear.

For Google to make inroads against these strong incumbents, it will need to offer a big bang for the buck.