According to an anonymous Google employee cited within a report on The Information (subscription required), developers at Google are prepping a new set-top box, possibly called Nexus TV, that’s powered by Android. According to the report, the device will play streaming video applications such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu Plus as well as run a selection of video games.
This information is fairly identical to a report released by the Wall Street Journal several months ago mentioning that Google was working on a set-top box for the living room that included a video camera and motion controller. One of the most interesting features on the device was the ability to run Google Hangouts, potentially an inexpensive way for small and large businesses to video conference easily and allowing families to communicate over long distances with video chat.
Today’s report also indicated that a remote control with touchscreen would be included with the device, although it’s likely that Google would release some form of companion application for touchscreen Android devices. The device is not expected to support live broadcasts and will not be used as a replacement for a cable box, a goal previously sought by Google while attempting to promote Google TV.
If the new Nexus TV is successful at running the vast majority of Android games currently available on the Google Play store and is priced under $99, it’s possible that could be the finishing blow for the Kickstarter-backed OUYA console. Powered by Android, the OUYA console has suffered due to a general lack of popular games as well as a low adoption rate within the gaming community.
However, it’s not clear how Google intends to differentiate the Nexus TV against other products attractive to home theater enthusiasts. Devices like the Roku 3 already excel at playing a vast quantity of popular streaming video applications as well as a collection of motion controlled games. In addition, it’s difficult to find a home theater has doesn’t already have access to video streaming applications within a smart HDTV interface, Blu-ray player, gaming console or DVR set-top box.
Google could potentially end up cannibalizing the highly popular Google Chromecast HDMI dongle that had impressive sales at a discounted $30 price point during Black Friday weekend. Indicating the popularity of the device, the Chromecast is currently the top seller in Amazon’s Televisions & Video Products category. Assuming you own a compatible mobile device, the Chromecast can stream media content from applications such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, Pandora and YouTube. Other popular apps headed to the platform include Plex, VEVO, Vimeo and Redbox Instant.
Since the report mentioned Google will take an aggressive stance on price with the new Nexus TV device, it’s highly likely that Google will attempt to monetize the television screen with the company’s highly lucrative AdSense business. The home theater is one area where Google has continually failed to make strides in regards to inserting advertising, thus this new platform could drive that initiative. While Google frequently releases products without much advanced notice to the tech community, it’s possible that more information about the Nexus TV device would be released at CES 2014 next month.
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