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My Thoughts on the Nexus Q and Google’s Strategy

Nexus q

While everyone was covering the release of the Nexus 7, the Nexus Q kinda slipped by. The Nexus Q is a $299 sphere that streams content to your home entertainment system. It’s obviously a step into Apple’s market, where they have been selling the Apple TV for years. But I find what isn’t there, more interesting than what was actually presented.

For the longest time it has been speculated that Apple is positioning the Apple TV to become something more than it currently is. For instance, when Apple changed the form factor and made it run a version of iOS, it was immediately suspected that they would open it up to third party developers for App creation when the time was right. That time still hasn’t come, but the rumors are growing. Besides, if Apple were to make this move, the device would instantly become more valuable, and suddenly, could be encroaching into new markets. A natural fit for a set-top box would be games. With third party help, suddenly the Apple TV is now a game console.

I think this is also what Google is hoping to do with the Nexus Q. Currently, it is a device through which you purchase Google Play content, and undoubtedly Google makes money from that, but there is a potential there for more. The main reason I have this suspicion regarding the Nexus Q is the fact that it requires a Android device to control it. Sure, it’s an expensive remote, but Apple only offers a comparatively flimsy, limited, aluminum remote with the Apple TV.

With Google’s solution, all the pieces- from the device, to content, to controller, and the potential of developer support, are all in place. This may be the case with Apple TV, but as usual, Apple is keeping it under wraps. Google takes the more Microsoft-like approach and releases things and sees if they stick to the market- and it is yet to be seen if the Nexus Q will sell.

Now, I really have no idea why “open” Google didn’t just launch the device with developer support and tools, but they didn’t. Perhaps this was an idea that was rushed to market due to angst surrounding the rumors that Apple was preparing to open the Apple TV to third-party development. Perhaps the back-end infrastructure isn’t ready yet for such an undertaking. And it is fully possible that Google did not and does not have any intention of moving into the apps market with the device. I doubt it though, all the pieces are seemingly in place, except for developer tools and involvement.

So, in short, I feel that the Nexus Q is a reaction to the Apple TV, as it stands today, with both devices harboring the ability to be morphed into something new if their respective companies decide to pursue it. For now, it seems like a standoff and each company is waiting for the other to blink first.

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  • Jim

    Did Mr. Jordan miss the fact that Apple TV does indeed come with a remote (a rather nice one at that) but it’s best remote is the iPad and 2nd best is the iPhone. Did he also miss that you can already play games on the Apple TV through the use of an iOS device. It will display while using the device as the controller. Check out Air Superiority as a reference. Needed to do a bit more research…

    • Alex Jordan

      I did not miss either of those facts. In the context of this article I focused on the feature set that comes with either the Nexus Q or Apple TV right out of the box. From day one, the Nexus Q requires an Android device to control it, Apple supplies a simple remote with the Apple TV. Yes, iOS devices makes for a better remote, but certainly isn’t required.

      As for games on the Apple TV, I was referring to native support in this piece. However, you are totally correct that games can be displayed on your television set via the Apple TV, an iOS device, and AirPlay. To me though, this solution is a world away from native support.