Rumor Mill: Google stretching Android to game consoles, smart watches

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is expanding its Android mobile operating system to videogame consoles, smart wristwatches and media streaming devices in an effort to combat similar products that archrival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may release in the future, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report states Google is designing the Android-powered products in-house and plans to market them itself, targeting a fall 2013 commercial launch for at least one of the new devices. While the game console and smart watch are new initiatives, the media streaming device will build on the Android-powered Nexus Q, unveiled last year but never released to consumers.

Sources added that Google's efforts are fueled in part by expectations that Apple will roll out its own branded game console as part of its next Apple TV product release. Google is also paying close attention to startup Ouya, which this week began selling an Android-powered console and game controller priced at $99.

Both Google and Apple declined to comment.

Google's move into console gaming could spell major trouble for traditional gaming giants like Nintendo and Sony: There are millions of games developed for Android, most offered for free or for a fraction of the cost associated with console games sold via conventional retailers. Consumer spending on games optimized for Android and Apple's iOS already combined to eclipse spending on handheld titles published for the Sony PSP and Nintendo 3DS platforms during the lucrative fourth-quarter 2012 holiday shopping season, according to a report issued earlier this year by research firm IDC and mobile analytics firm App Annie.

Insiders told The Wall Street Journal that Google is currently wrapping up Android version 5.0 (reportedly codenamed "Key Lime Pie"), expected for release this fall. With the introduction of Android 5.0, Google is expected to push the software platform into laptops, wearables and appliances, giving manufacturing partners greater flexibility to customize the OS for use in devices beyond smartphones and tablets. Sources add that Google is also tweaking the OS to run more efficiently across low-cost Android smartphones targeting the emerging markets segment.

Manufacturers shipped 162.1 million Android smartphones during the first quarter of 2013, a 79.5 percent year-over-year spike, IDC reports. The Google OS accounted for 75 percent of all smartphone shipments during the period, up from 59.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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