Google is planning to enter the home entertainment market with a Google-branded wireless device that streams music within a house, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In addition to music, the device may also stream other media, the Journal reported on Thursday, quoting anonymous sources familiar with the company's plans.
The Google home entertainment system, which could make its debut later this year, would let users download digital content and stream it to other home devices like speakers also made by Google or by other vendors. The product is the brainchild of Google's Android team, the Journal reported.
Google has a cloud-based online music service called Google Music, which includes song and album sales and is integrated with the company's Google+ social network. Google Music also lets users store and play back music.
Google Music's collection of songs and albums is available in the Android Market, which is accessible via Android devices and Web browsers. Google Music is compatible with Android and Apple iOS devices, and can also be accessed from PC browsers.
Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from IDG News Service. The company declined to comment when reached by the Journal.
Several analysts, however, were skeptical that the rumored device would mark a serious foray by Google into the hardware business. They suggested it is more likely that Google is planning a device to prime the market for other products to support enhanced multimedia offerings.
Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, said he suspected Google "is going for a platform play" in an effort to compete with Apple's AirPlay, in which Google Music will serve music to a range of devices, including Android phones.
"When Google has a new product or service," Blau explained, "they'll do one or two products themselves. You've seen that with the Android phone and the Chrome computer. They're sort of seeding the market with their own device, but they don't seem to be in heavy competition with the other manufacturers, because they really need to get them on board."
Roger Kay, the president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, also suggested that Google was most likely making a prototype for its hardware partners to emulate to run Google software. Those partners "have had their feathers ruffled a number of times" recently, he noted, especially with Google's agreement last August to acquire Motorola Mobility. "In that environment, Google should be offering a prototype" and potentially some marketing money, he said.
Avi Greengart, a consumer devices analyst at Current Analysis, also is skeptical. He noted that reports circulating Thursday didn't make clear what exactly Google would launch. It is clear, he said, "that Google is continuing its efforts with content services in the cloud and is looking for hardware that can access those."