And so, without leaving so much as a ripple in the tech world, the Nexus Q dies. It’s not that I’m shocked it’s dead, rather that I’m shocked it never actually lived in the first place. But, as a rather astute article over at CIO points out you can no longer order one and even if you could, you likely wouldn’t use it anyway.
But what WAS the Q? And why was it destined for so much failure?
Well, let’s all go back to the Google I/O conference in July of this year. The Nexus Q was supposed to be Google’s answer to the Apple TV, the Roku, and the Boxee’s of the world. For only $299, it could stream all your purchases from Google’s Play store straight to your home theater. Even more, you could pair your Jellybean (Android 4.1) phone to it and stream media from it! It was the future!
Perhaps the first indication that this product was going nowhere fast should have been the announcement itself. Allow me to recap the “magic” that was the world’s first glimpse of the Q:
Over here we have some of our senior tech guys in a typical living room fashion. Now one of them wants to show the other one a song he recently downloaded onto his Android phone. So he . . . oh wait, we’re having a bit of an interruption for a moment. We’d like to NOW TAKE YOU TO A BLIMP THAT IS OVER US RIGHT NOW! WE HAVE SKYDIVERS WEARING FUTURISTIC HEADGEAR WITH LIVE-STREAMING CAMERAS ON THEM AND THEY ARE GOING TO JUMP FROM THE BLIMP ALL “TONY STARK” STYLE AND HOLY CRAP HERE THEY GO!!! OH, THIS IS SO INTENSE! IT’S LIKE I’M IN A MOUNTAIN DEW AD! THEY LANDED, AND NOW WE’RE OFF ONTO SOME BMX BIKERS, DOING TRICKS ON THE ROOF OF THE CONFERENCE CENTER. I SAY TRICKS, BUT OUR INSURANCE CARRIER WOULDN’T ALLOW REAL TRICKS, SO BEAR WITH ME THERE. OH! NOW WE’RE REPELLING DOWN THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING! NOW WE’RE BMX-ING BACK THROUGH THE GROUND LEVEL! NOW WE’RE BIKING BACK UP ONTO STAGE! THIS IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I’VE EVER SEEN! IT’S LIKE A KITTEN THAT CAN FART DOUBLE RAINBOWS, ONLY THE RAINBOWS ARE MADE OF JOY! MANKIND HAS PEAKED! OH MY God and now back to this completely unrelated product with the geeks on the couch.
Can you see how they might have failed to devote the appropriate amount of effort into it’s launch?
Not that a good launch could have saved the poor dear; how do you market a device with no controls, no interface, and whose primary comment is “Is that some sort of squid by your TV?” The idea behind the Q was that Google would make up the lead it had lost to Apple’s AirPlay by allowing people with Android phones (remember, 4.1 and up ONLY) come in, tap their phone to the device, and immediately start streaming their content to your TV.
The problems with this sort of setup are manyfold, but here are the big ones: 1) Most Android phones are not on Jellybean yet. In fact, there are phones that have been waiting for over a year just to get Ice Cream Sandwich. 2) Many phones at the time of launch did not have the NFC chip required to “pair” to the Q in the first place. 3) With the increase in cloud services and streaming, the people who would be most interested in sharing their media are streaming it from somewhere else in the first place (which is a feature that the Q did not support).
Perhaps the biggest strike against the Q was the fact that it’s very usage design was intended for people who do not exist in the real world. In what type of setting that you can realistically think of do people enter your home, say “Hey this is a great party! I think I’ll hijack the stereo now.” and proceed to pair themselves to your home theater?
The Nexus Q was a device born out of Google’s constant desire to stay both relevant and ahead of the curve at the same time. Worrying about Apple’s AirPlay, they gave the Q features that should have been in the Google TV all along anyway. By tying it to their own ecosystem, perhaps they were trying to head off the then-recently announced Xbox SmartGlass.
But by failing at both of those objectives, pricing it WAY above the competition, and then making it look like some sort of Geiger-Lovecraft hybrid . . . is it any wonder why you’ll never see one of these in the wild?