Google’s worst hardware failure came 10 years ago today

The Nexus Q was such a misguided product that Google decided to pull the plug before the device was released to consumers. A decade after its launch at I/O 2012, the $299 media player was positioned as a “social streaming device,” which remains a unique failure in Google’s hardware story. Say what you think about Google Glass, but the company’s first foray into wearable tech at least got people talking. By contrast, the Nexus Q is an example of what happens when a company gets lost in its own walled garden.

The Q promising aspect; in hindsight, you can clearly see the foundation and early DNA of the Google Chromecast in it. But everything about executions is basically short-sighted — and a little weird. In the following promotional video released the day Google announced the Nexus Q, someone described the product as “this living alien object.”

“There’s something in there. It wants to get out.” Totally normal stuff. 60 seconds into the video and you still don’t know what this thing is or what it does. Ultimately, we learned that the Nexus Q was “a small, Android-powered computer” that could play music or video from the cloud.

Overmarketing aside, the Nexus Q wasn’t popular.david pogue in New York Times It’s “confusing” and “overbuilt”. We gave it 5 points.Comment from network, small tools, and everyone else in the same consensus: No matter how impressive its hardware, the Q wasn’t enough at the time to justify a much higher price than a Roku or an Apple TV. Devices that only work with Google services aren’t practical or appealing to many people.

The streaming player will be made in the US, which no doubt contributes to its staggering price.

Designed by Google, Made in the USA

But damn it looks cool. Thanks to its spherical industrial design and glowing LED ring, the Nexus Q truly exudes a sci-fi vibe (especially when you run out of banana plugs and other A/V cables). Remember, this was long before Amazon’s Echo. Q looks like something that can get you into a matrix. It’s all original. Unlike other Nexus devices that work with partners like LG, Samsung, Asus, Huawei, and more, the Nexus Q was conceived entirely by Google.

it may looks familiar nowbut the Nexus Q had a pretty cool design at the time.
GIF: Google

Best of all, it’s designed and built in the United States. Google never really emphasized or exaggerated manufacturing in the U.S.—perhaps to avoid any notion that it was going to be a trend—but it certainly contributed to Plan Q’s $299 price tag. (The original Moto X was later assembled in the US, but that move didn’t last long.)

Inside the sphere is an “audiophile-grade” 25-watt amplifier that powers passive speakers — still the Q’s most unique hardware component — as well as connections for optical, Micro HDMI, and Ethernet. According to hardware director Matt Hershenson, a Micro USB port appeared “to encourage general hacking abilities.” The Nexus Q uses the same smartphone chip as the Galaxy Nexus. You can rotate the top half of the sphere to control the volume, or tap it to mute whatever is playing. All the qualities of a great living room device are there. But restrictive software limitations destroy that potential.

The Nexus Q’s built-in amplifier is an unusual inclusion. You won’t find banana jack connectors on many streaming media players.
Chris Welch/The Verge

Nexus Q only supports Google services, including Play Music, Play Movies & TV, and YouTube. No Netflix or Hulu, no Spotify. Google went to great lengths to install an amplifier, but audiophiles can’t get lossless audio from an analog connector.

The Q does not have any on-screen user interface, nor does it have a remote control. You can only control it with a dedicated Android app. Chromecast users may find some of this content familiar. But there’s a major difference between the Nexus Q and the Chromecast, which came a year later, that made the $35 streaming dongle so successful. Learning a hard lesson from its stubborn preference for its own software, Google corrected course and pushed hard for popular third-party apps to adopt casts. Crucially, Chromecast also supports iOS.

social streaming

In addition to the Nexus Q’s core functionality of playing music and video, Google is trying to position the product as a social experience. Multiple people will be able to contribute to a music playlist without passing someone’s phone or fighting over control of a Bluetooth speaker. Friends can share YouTube or Play Movies content on their TV screen in a similar way—as long as they’re on your Wi-Fi.

This all sounds good in theory, but again, this is a pre-Chromecast version. The process of “social” streaming…say, inconvenient.If you really want the “everyone at the party can DJ” scenario happen, all your friends will return The Nexus Q app needs to be downloaded and installed before songs can be added to the queue. Even so, reviews complained that the software wasn’t intuitive when it came to managing music playlists. It’s all too easy to accidentally play a song and ruin an ongoing collaborative mix.

Fast-forward a few years, and eventually, the top streaming music services found they could figure this out on their own. Now you can make collaborative playlists on Spotify (or YouTube Music) – no special equipment or random apps required.

In this case, you can adjust the volume by rotating or stroking the top half of the Nexus Q.
GIF: Google

end of queue

Google heard negative comments, “Is this all it does?” Criticism of the Nexus Q was overwhelming. By late July 2012, just a month after the announcement, the company announced that it would delay the product’s consumer-facing launch “while we’re working to make it even better.” Customers who pre-ordered will receive the device for free as a thank you for their early interest.

But the Nexus Q never hit the shelves. By the end of 2012, Google quietly removed the product from its website. In 2013, the company’s apps began to completely break compatibility with devices. With so few Q units in the world, Google didn’t waste time leaving them in the rearview mirror.

At least this disaster led to the Chromecast a year later.
Chris Welch/The Verge

After Google ditched the hardware, tinkerers and modders spent years trying to bring the Nexus Q back to life. It made its way into the CyanogenMod circuit, and someone even managed to turn it into a USB audio device to take advantage of the integrated amplifier. But not many devices are in circulation, so these efforts are largely a thing of the past.

The Nexus Q was a complete flop, but Google isn’t wrong about the “third wave of consumer electronics” that will make more use of the cloud to put all your entertainment (music, movies, TV) at your fingertips And. We’re everywhere today, and now you can add games to the equation. It’s an embarrassing blunder, but Google’s cancellation of the $299 media player shows consumers have high expectations for living room entertainment — something even the big tech companies can’t afford on their own.

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