Google is developing a home entertainment device, according to people with knowledge of the company’s plans.
The device, which exists as a prototype and will eventually be sold as a branded item to consumers, is the company’s most significant venture into hardware. While its initial purpose will be for streaming music, its eventual use could be much larger.
Larry Page, who last year took the reins of the company he co-founded, has been intent on moving into hardware. To compete with Apple and Amazon, Google thinks it has to have greater control over production.
Next week, Google is likely to complete its acquisition of the handset maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. That purchase puts Google into direct competition with the phone makers that use its Android software as well as Apple and its iPhone. The leader in desktop search, Google did not want to be left behind as computing went mobile.
Motorola, which made an earlier generation of home entertainment systems before stumbling, is the likely manufacturer of the new device.
A Google spokesman declined to comment.
While Google has talked openly about its designs on consumers’ living rooms, news that the device was becoming a reality surfaced last week in an application the search giant filed with the Federal Communications Commission. In the application, Google said it would begin testing a device it labeled simply an “entertainment device.”
The device will have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and, as Google noted in the application, it will “connect to other home electronics equipment.” The application, which was first reported by the tech website GigaOM, said Google would test the device for stability in employees’ homes through the summer.
Analysts are wary of Google’s venture into the notoriously cutthroat hardware field. Apple has loyal, sometimes fanatical followers, and enviably rich profit margins. Amazon is willing to lose money on its devices and make it up on sales of content. Most other hardware makers have a much tougher slog.
But Google is seen as having little choice.
“Google’s future depends on extending its influence beyond the PC screen,” said James McQuivey, a Forrester analyst. “They’ve made tremendous progress in the mobile phone business, but their attempts to do the same thing with the TV and tablet flopped because the hardware manufacturers they relied on were not able to move fast enough.”
But McQuivey noted that controlling manufacturing meant calling the shots. “It’s quite telling that Amazon introduced its tablet two months ago and is already the second tablet maker in the market,” he said.
Google’s larger goal, a person closely tied to the project said, was to connect everything in the home to the Internet, including light bulbs, speakers and TV sets. The initial version will all be controlled from an Android device.
The first version of Google TV was considered a disaster, both internally and with partners.
Guerrino De Luca, chief executive of Logitech, which manufactured the Google TV set-top box, has acknowledged publicly that Google TV was “a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature.”