Ask the magic 8-ball: Google's Nexus Q brings Play to the home

Google's first in-house hardware project is a little ball of entertainment

Google rolled out what it's calling the world's first social streaming media player Wednesday at its I/O developer conference. The Nexus Q is available through the Google Play Store for $299 and is expected to ship sometime in mid-July.

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At a glance, the Nexus Q looks sort of like a magic 8-ball, though it substitutes a host of audio and video ports for a purple-tinged window. Google engineers Joe Britt and Matt Hershenson said that it's designed to connect to the best speakers and TV screens in the house, allowing the Nexus Q to stream music and movies from the cloud - in this case, the Google Play Store - and play them back on any available home entertainment systems.

"You use your Android phone or tablet to control it, but you're not actually streaming content from your device to it. Instead, Nexus Q pulls your content directly from Google Play. In other words, you use your phone or tablet to control the cloud," Britt said.

Hershenson said the Nexus Q boasts a built-in "audiophile-grade" 25-watt amplifier, which "can fill a room with beautiful, clear crisp sound."

The device boasts optical digital audio and micro HDMI outputs, along with dual-band Wi-Fi, Ethernet, near-field communications and Bluetooth for a wide range of connectivity options.

"There's also a micro USB port to connect future accessories and encourage general hackability," Hershenson added, to enthusiastic applause.

The social aspect, according to Britt and Hershenson, is a product of Nexus Q's ability to be controlled by anyone with an Android device. Because cloud content from the Play store is available anywhere, friends can stream their own music from that source on any Nexus Q - in effect, letting anyone add their songs to a playlist at a party, or even hijack the jukebox.

What's more, the social functionality works with other content, including videos from the Play store and YouTube.

The Nexus Q's availability will be limited, at launch, to the U.S. market, Google noted.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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