Google set to build Android-based console

Reports from the Wall Street Journal also suggest a smartwatch is in the works
  • @jjvincent

Reports from the Wall Street Journal have revealed that Google is currently developing an Android-powered gaming console and smartwatch. The Journal’s sources believe that this is partly a pre-emptive measure, intended to counter similar devices from Apple.

Although there have so far only been suggestions that Apple might be entering the gaming market (these include patents for iOS gaming controllers and the uptick in Apple TV’s profitability), such rumours seem far more substantial if Google also believes in them.

Android-based gaming consoles have enjoyed great success over the past year with notable devices including the GameStick and Ouya. The latter, a £99 Kickstarter-funded console, launched at the beginning of this week and managed to sell out through both Amazon US and UK stores, despite receiving criticism for poor quality hardware.

Sources speaking to the Journal also indicated that the company would be rebooting its Nexus Q device – a product described as “the first social streaming media player” but never released to the public. The Q was intended to connect to TVs and stereos to stream video and audio content, but its launch was cancelled after customers complained that the price was too high ($299) in relation to its limited functionality.

Taken together, these new products would be ideal in helping Google capitalise on the growth of its Android operating system – with the reports indicating that their release would coincide with an update to its mobile software, with the new version dubbed ‘K Release’ or - in keeping with the food themed naming of Android systems - ‘Key Lime Pie’.

Recent reports from industry analysts Gartner showed that Android OS is enjoying massive growth, with the number of Android devices set to double from 2012 to 2014 – hitting over a billion units by the end of that year. In the first quarter of this year, Android powered 75% of all smartphones shipped, as well as 57% of all tablets.

Google are set to capitalise on this growth by also targeting developing countries with a low-cost smartphone. This would be a clear challenge to Firefox, who have been planning their own Firefox OS based mobile, aimed at the same market. Google have even planned to expand their potential market with a project named Google Loom that will offer free wireless internet via balloons to developing countries with poor infrastructure.

A low-cost smartphone makes sense for Google though, especially considering their purchase of Motorola’s hardware division last year. At this year’s D11 conference Motorola announced the Moto X, a phone that would address the “low-cost, high quality market”.

Google’s success in pushing Android onto the smartphone and tablet market has been partly thanks to its canny licensing deals (it offers the OS for free to manufacturers and takes its revenue from the use of its web services – like search and YouTube). However, it has also been fairly protective of the Android brand in the past – stopping manufacturers from using the Android name to promote their products.

This restrictive approach was no doubt an attempt to sanctify its product and promote ‘home-built’ hardware like the Nexus but these new reports suggest that these limitations will be loosened, with Android pushed onto more devices, including laptops (Hewlett Packard are already working on such a device), as well as “appliances such as refrigerators.”

Taken as a single piece of news these developments seem like nothing less than Google’s plan for world domination, though we should remember that many of the markets it’s trying to enter are already fairly crowded. However, it’s also fair to note that this has not stopped the search giant in the past.