Taking another step in the bold journey into electronic hardware that began with branded smartphones, search giant Google is working on a home entertainment device that will initially stream music throughout homes and later other media, reports say.
The device is most likely to made by Motorola Mobility, which Mountain View, Calif.-based Google is in the process of acquiring in a $12.5 billion deal, The New York Times reported.
Google filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission last week for testing the new device, the Times said.
In the Prototyping Phase
"Google is developing an entertainment device that requires testing outside the laboratory environment," reads the application. "The device is in the prototyping phase and will be modified prior to final compliance testing."
The testing, to continue through July, would measure "throughput and stability of home Wi-Fi networks using an entertainment device. Testing will include functional testing of all subsystems, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radio. Users will connect their device to home Wi-Fi networks and use Bluetooth to connect to other home electronics equipment. This line of testing will reveal real world engineering issues and reliability of networks."
A Google spokesman told us the company had no comment about the device reports. Google also did not provide comment for the Times story.
Melding content and hardware has become essential to technology companies: Apple uses content such as music, videos and apps to drive sales of its mobile devices, while Amazon and Barnes & Noble each developed e-readers and tablets to drive sales of digital books and other media. Software giant Microsoft developed the Xbox entertainment system to sell games and online memberships and services.
Google in May 2010 announced the development of its Google TV smart TV system for interactive features, but hardware partner Logitech dropped out of the project in November 2011 after losing an estimated $100 million in the unsuccessful venture. Google's venture into smartphones with its own branded phone, the HTC Nexus One, was initially less successful than its open-source Android operating system, but a successor, Samsung's Galaxy Nexus, has been more popular as it is sold by carriers rather than just Google's online store.
Straight from the Cloud
The Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the matter," said the device will be unveiled later this year.
Those sources said consumers would be able to use smartphones or tablets to control a stream of music from Google's online music-storage service to wireless Google speakers or other devices in people's homes. If reports are accurate that would be similar to the Sonos Multi-Room Music System, which plays music from Web-based sources like RadioTime.
But Michael Inouye, a digital home analyst with ABI Research, said Google would likely face an uphill battle with consumers since they can already stream music from mobile devices they already own by downloading apps such as iHeartRadio and Pandora.
"Google's solution doesn't sound novel and while it is a good step towards establishing that vaunted hardware-software -content-service ecosystem, music is a challenging way to go about it."
If Google adds video later, Inouye said, "one could question how this differentiates itself from Google TV, which might be more open, but it could dilute Google's intention to build its ecosystem."