When developers attend Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) I/O 2013 this week they will probably have a lot to look forward to--in-depth technical sessions, visionary keynotes and major product and service announcements. As they get bombarded with information it could be difficult to remember everything they learn, just as it's easy to forget about what was announced at Google I/O last year. Which is why, before things get underway, it's worth taking a quick look back at I/O 2012 and thinking about the big promise Google made, and which it failed to deliver. I am referring, of course, to the Nexus Q.
Along with the Nexus 7 tablet and Android Jelly Bean 4.1, the Nexus Q was among the biggest announcements to come out of Google I/O last June. The spherical device was intended to work with Android smartphones and tablets, along with Google Play, to stream music and videos to HDTVs, a sound system or a pair of speakers. Even more exciting was the possibility that users would be able to collaborate with friends on music or video playlists using their Android phones.
Then, a few weeks later, those who pre-ordered the Nexus Q received the following e-mail, informing them the device would not be arriving as planned:
When we announced Nexus Q at Google I/O, we gave away devices to attendees for an early preview. The industrial design and hardware were met with great enthusiasm. We also heard initial feedback from users that they want Nexus Q to do even more than it does today. In response, we have decided to postpone the consumer launch of Nexus Q while we work on making it even better."
Well, they've had a year, and this week's I/O conference would be a great opportunity to showcase how Google has incorporated that feedback by offering a Nexus Q that can do even more. For developers, a new and improved Nexus Q could be almost as important as a major Android OS update. That's because the Nexus Q represents the future of multimedia entertainment, where consumers will (ideally) move back and forth between traditional smartphone usage and something that integrates a TV experience, a desktop experience, a tablet experience or a mix of all four.
Particularly from a mobile gaming perspective, the Nexus Q could offer some highly interesting opportunities around in-app purchasing, videos, advertising and, not least, novel playing experiences. I've heard rumors that the revamped Nexus Q, if it appears at Google I/O, will actually be oriented more around gaming. That means users might collectively compile their favorite gaming apps along with videos and music--a social media-style alternative to the Google Play store.
If Google finally delivers with the Nexus Q, the opportunity for app developers will be to think more broadly about the kind of consumer opportunities available to them across the Android ecosystem. I've also read speculation that the device may end-up looking more box-like, but if it's still in the shape of a ball, it will be squarely in the Android developer community's court.--Shane