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Google reportedly working on wireless home entertainment system

Google's Android unit is rumored to be developing a wireless home entertainment system that is capable of streaming music throughout the home, and if launched would be the first consumer electronics product designed and marketed under the Google brand.

Citing sources familiar with the project, The Wall Street Journal reports that the internet search giant's Android mobile platform division has led a "multi-year effort" to develop the system, which is rumored to launch sometime this year.

Thus far, Google has concentrated on developing the software that powers partner Android device makers' hardware, like Samsung's Galaxy line of phones or Google TV products branded by Sony and Logitech.

The proposed wireless system could mark the start of a new era for the company where, much like Apple, it will develop an ecosystem of Google-designed and branded software and hardware.

According to the sources, the system will stream music from Google's online music store to Google-branded speakers or other WiFi-connected devices and can be controlled using a smartphone or tablet, akin to Google TV. However, the device or devices are meant to be a system solution and not just a set-box or integrated TV component made by an outside vendor.

The product described smacks of Apple's AirPlay wireless system, which connects iOS devices and computers running iTunes to Apple TVs, third-party stereos and other enabled devices to stream music and video. Non-AirPlay capable products can also stream audio via output from the company's AirPort Express base station.

While Apple relies on iOS, iTunes and other proprietary software and third-party hardware to power AirPlay, Google will reportedly use a version of its Android platform to do the same.

Apple AirPlay

Apple AirPlay featuring an enabled B&W Zeppelin Air speaker dock. | Source: Apple

Some app developers have bemoaned the Android operating system's fragmentation as many OEMs make tweaks to the software, and was at one point such an issue that Google had to implement stricter "non-fragmentation clauses" to remedy the situation.

The problem of fragmentation is essentially a non-factor for companies that are in control of both the software and hardware facets of product creation. Google could possibly be looking for that level of consistency with the rumored product line.

With its new system, Google hopes to undercut competitors like Sonos, a wireless entertainment system pioneer that focuses solely on streaming music.

Sonos cofounder Tom Cullen notes that from a financial perspective, the idea of relying only on music streaming services would be a misstep for Google.

"I'd be stunned if they actually thought it was worth it, because it's peanuts for them," Cullen said of possible revenue from the venture. Cullen's company managed $200 million in sales last year, compared to Google's $38 billion.

However, the rumored product could indeed support more than just basic audio by leveraging the Android-based Google TV to stream video as well.

Google TV

Google TV products by Sony and Logitech. | Source: Google

Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility may also yield helpful patents such as "Televation," which allows users to rebroadcast live video content to other devices in the home.

It is unclear how Google intends to market the system, and no estimated was given as to a possible launch date.