Google is getting into the hardware game, and not just with its purchase of handset and set-top box maker Motorola. The company is announcing today the launch of its first Android@Home product, the Nexus Q. Shaped like a big black octopus, the wireless music and video streaming box looks like a direct competitor to Sonos, and will let users connect all their mobile phones and tablets to the device using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The launch of the box comes a year after Google announced its Android@Home initiative at last year’s I/O developer conference, and has been anticipated since the Wall Street Journal reported on the existence of the product earlier this year.
But now we know a little bit more about the device, thanks to a leaked page ahead of the Google I/O keynote. For one thing, the device will cost $299 and will allow users to power a pair of bookshelf speakers directly with a built-in 25W amp, or connect the device to a user’s AV receiver or HDTV. Users can deploy multiple Nexus Qs around a house to reach multiple rooms.
As for specs: The Nexus Q measures 4.6 inches in diameter and weighs 2 pounds. It has 1GB of RAM and 16GB of Flash memory, runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and can connect to devices via Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n networks, Bluetooth, or NFC.
It’s also being promoted as a “social” streaming device. A demo video shows how the Nexus Q can stream music and video entertainment from the cloud to the home, and how users can create social playlists with friends who are connected on the same local Wi-Fi network through the Google Play app. All they need is an Android tablet or phone to send music or videos to the local sound system or HDTV.
Update: So the big advantage here seems to be that the Nexus Q streams media from the cloud, rather than being streamed from the mobile phone or tablet to the device. The social integration allows multiple users to add songs from their own device to a queue, and control the order and playback of a list of songs.
With Google Play, the Nexus Q will also let users connect to their movie libraries and stream to a TV, whether it be at their own homes or at a friend’s house. It also lets users share YouTube videos with each other and “take over the TV” straight from the mobile device.