Google could debut its own retail set-top box in the first half of 2014, according to the latest rumor in the set-top market. But, if Amir Efrati of The Information is right (subscription required; hat tip, Engadget), the set-top won't be a TV streamer, but a game console.
Citing "people who have seen the device or were told about it," Efrati reported on Friday that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s new hardware will be a Nexus-branded set-top. Engadget's further description suggests that the box will run Android games using a touch-screen controller, but that it won't support live TV. Efrati joined founder and industry veteran Jessica Lessin at The Information after a nine-year stint at The Wall Street Journal.
The reports come as Google's television franchise continues to expand, albeit in unpredictable ways. Google Fiber TV is slowly spreading outward from Kansas City, and Google's Chromecast streaming stick is currently the best selling product in Amazon's electronics category. The big question for Google about the potential Nexus set-top is whether the box will eventually include live television as well. Whether it does or not, however, Google's TV presence is clearly growing.
As 2013 comes to a close, though, several of the other cable-killing set-tops that had been rumored to launch this year are still missing in action. Bloomberg reported in April that Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) planned to launch a set-top this fall for streaming content from its Video on Demand store and Instant Video service to television sets. Then there was the planned Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) OnCue set-top and service. That business folded rather abruptly, and Intel is now attempting to sell off the assets for around $500 million. (See Amazon Set-Top Slated for Fall and Intel Kissing OTT Goodbye?)
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable