In addition to the Nexus 7 tablet, Google announced another Nexus-branded device today during its opening keynote at I/O. It's a home theater device, but surprisingly isn't a Google TV set-top box. In fact, it's not a box at all. The spherical Nexus Q is what Google is calling a social streaming media player, and is yet another device to compete for HDMI cables in the living room entertainment center. Here's how it works.
As a streaming hub, the Nexus Q connects to either your TV, receiver, or just speakers through HDMI, optical audio, or even direct banana plugs. The device itself is a 25-watt amp (12.5W per channel), and its only physical controls are for volume and muting--cleverly built into the rotating top hemisphere of the dome. Q actually doesn't store media locally, nor can the USB port be used to connect hard drives with music or video. Its sole purpose is to stream content from the cloud, through Google's Play services and YouTube. That means that users who own or rent media hosted on their Google accounts can tap into any Q found on a local Wi-Fi network and pipe songs or video to the hub. Google envisions party-goers collaboratively working on playlists during hangouts--not the Google+ variety. It's akin to Apple's airplay, but for only media from Google-approved sources.
The Nexus Q is available for pre-order now and will ship in the US by the middle of next month. If $300 sounds like a high price to pay for a device that won't even work without an Android phone or tablet connected to the same network, that may be because the Nexus Q is built in the United States, with many of its parts sourced from American companies. Gadgetlab has a breakdown of all the components found in the Nexus Q, including the same SoC hardware found in a Galaxy Nexus, and a sweet ring of 32 RGB LEDs.