I’m sure you were all breathlessly glued to your browsers watching Google’s I/O keynote today. As has been the case every year, the crew from Mountain View demoed some interesting products that either made you question why they exist or are riding the coattails of someone else’s earlier offering.
The Nexus Q is a decidedly different take on the AppleTV and by “different,” I mean “unexplainable.” The spherical device is designed to be a media hub for Google Play, but for reasons I can’t fathom, it’s a lot more than that. It has a built-in speaker and 25-watt amp, which are odd features for a product designed to be integrated into a home theater setup. What purpose does the speaker serve? People with basic home theater/HTPC setups have at least a left, right and center channel speaker, so why include one that will be, at best, superfluous? And why the built-in amp? Only the most basic setups don’t have an amp, and almost all of them have one built into the tuner. You can also be sure it’s better than the one in Google’s device. Does Google really see their market as one where people plug their speakers directly into their device? These additions would be little more than curiosities if it wasn’t for the price. The Q will sell for $299, three times as much as an AppleTV and more than any of the current Google TV set-top devices.
The device’s other big selling point is that it’s the first “social media player,” which is hilarious for a company that has failed the balls off of social to date. According to the demo, your neckbeard friends – who also obviously have Android devices – can use it to create music playlists that can be streamed to your overpriced hub (edit: apparently they – and you – must have Android devices to use the thing; the Q won’t work as a stand-alone player). I predict a wave of Nexus Q parties that will rival Microsoft’s Windows 7 parties in popularity. You can also watch YouTube videos together, which is obviously a much more popular social activity than I had previously realized. So the Q is an attempt to integrate home theater components that people already own in a package that costs more than any other comparable device, while offering nothing to justify the premium. This thing is going to be a massive fail.
Next up was the widely predicted Nexus tablet, the Nexus 7. Google went the other way on this device, offering a 7″ tablet that hoses the Amazon Fire’s specs for the same price: $199. The keynote speakers billed the N7 (apologies to Commander Shepard) as a device that brings your content front and center, which is pretty much the lead sentence of the Fire’s marketing brochure. And while there were some pretty impressive Google Play partnerships announced during the keynote for movie, TV show and magazine content, Google can’t seriously think it can be competitive with Amazon when it comes to content access. The two tangible advantages the Nexus 7 offers over Amazon’s current Fire are specs and Jelly Bean. Expect Amazon – being Amazon – to immediately slash the prices of its Fire and probably release a device with juicier guts for the same price. Remember what Amazon did to the Kindle once the iPad was announced? Lather, rinse, repeat. Because the Fire is a forked Gingerbread device, its OS may be caught lagging, but that matters to 5% of the people who will be choosing between it and a Nexus 7, especially if the Fire gets a price cut. If Amazon can produce a $99 Fire or match the performance of the 7, Google’s device will faceplant with the market that doesn’t include Google I/O attendees. When Microsoft announced the Surface, at least they understood the market in which they were competing when it pulled the device’s manufacturing under its umbrella.
In summary, the Nexus Q integrates the wrong features into a product that is an automatic non-starter in the current set-top landscape. The Nexus 7 is trying to bounce the king of loss-leaders with a faster version of a device that was announced last year. My prediction? Pain.