Is Google Hard At Work On New Home Entertainment System?

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It was just a few days ago that news of a mysterious home-oriented Google device was being prepped for testing in the homes of 252 company employees, but the associated FCC filing left most of the specifics up in the air. Now, if a new report from the Wall Street Journal holds true, Google’s next foray into the hardware space could be all about pumping up those jams.

According to WSJ’s sources, the device in development is a “home entertainment system” that can wirelessly stream music throughout users’ homes. Google has attempted to make inroads into the living room before with initiatives like Google TV, but this would mark the first time the search giant would be developing and selling products under their own name rather than relying on external hardware vendors.

The pieces we have at this point certainly seem to line up. In their FCC application, Google representatives noted that the at-home beta test was meant to accomplishing the following:

Testing throughput and stability of home WiFi networks using an entertainment device. Testing will include functional testing of all subsystems, including WiFi and Bluetooth radio. Users will connect their device to home WiFi networks and use Bluetooth to connect to other home electronics equipment.

WiFi support seems like a no-brainer when it comes to streaming content, but the inclusion of a Bluetooth radio (commonly seen on phones of all stripes) hints at the possibility of a close connection between the box in question and mobile devices.

The mysterious entertainment device is reportedly the result of years of work from Google’s Android team, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. With movies and more recently music being introduced into the Android Market, it was only natural that the device in question would be able to capitalize on all that content. WSJ’s sources acknowledge that notion, as they note that the Google Mystery Box may be able to stream content other than just music.

Still, media/hardware ventures like Google TV haven’t been as strong a performer in the marketplace as Google would have hoped, so it’s a bit surprising to see that another media-oriented device seems so close to fruition. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise though — Google chairman Eric Schmidt reaffirmed himself as being a proponent of a highly-connected home life while at this year’s CES.

One of the bigger questions that this whole situation raises is whether or not the entertainment box will ever actually see the light of day. At first glance, the answer seems obvious — why put a petition for testing that much new hardware outside of the lab in front of a federal body if it’ll never see the light of day? WSJ’s sources seem to confirm that the device isn’t just vaporware and that it will launch later this year, but a lot could happen between now and then.

If it is real though, and Google can churn out reliable — and preferably cheap — units, they stand a chance at yanking the rug out from under a major competitor: Apple and its $99 Apple TV.