What is Google’s ‘entertainment device’?

February 9, 2012

Paperwork may not always be exciting, but a December Google filing with the Federal Communications Commission made a splash recently when it revealed that the Internet search giant had applied to test an “entertainment device.”

Or, to be more exact, 252 devices. The filing asked for permission to begin a six-month trial run of the device, starting Jan. 17, that connects to home WiFi networks and uses Bluetooth to connect with other home electronics.

In a Thursday report, the Wall Street Journal cited sources “briefed on the company’s plans” who said that the mysterious device is a home-entertainment system that will stream music and possibly other digital media. The report said that the product could be unveiled later this year and is a “multi-year” development effort by Google’s Android team.

Google recently added music downloads to its Android Marketplace, sending the online storefront into greater competition with Apple’s iTunes store. The addition of video would heat up the rivalry.

In May, Google announced an initiative called “Android@Home,” a framework for enabling users to control light switches and other home appliances wirelessly. GigaOm’s Stacey Higginbotham speculated that the new entertainment device could be related to that framework.

The application itself gives few clues to the true nature of the product. The paperwork stated that the testing would “reveal the real world engineering issues and reliability of networks and would help Google make tweaks for a better user experience.”

Google asked to test the devices at Google facilities in Los Angeles, Cambridge, Mass., New York and at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., the document said.

Related stories:

Google releases Chrome for Android

Chrome overtakes Firefox in global market share

How to choose what you share with Google

Experts: Google privacy shift will have greater impact on Android users

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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