The Player is the most interesting Nexus device announced today

Google announced three new devices today: the Nexus 6, the Nexus 9 and Nexus Player. Of the three, I predict the Nexus Player will yield the greatest influence.

The Nexus 6 looks like a good phone but it now has a $650 price, which means it competes with all the other flagship phones. Chinese manufacturers like OnePlus and Xiaomi continue to offer the best performance-to-price ratio on the market.

The Nexus 9 wants to be a productivity device with its detachable keyboard, but its 9-inch display is simply too small for it to be a capable laptop replacement. It might fill a niche, but it won’t be the converged device I’m looking for.

Of the three Nexus devices announced today, the Nexus Player is the most interesting. It will compete with other streaming boxes like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, WD TV, Boxee, et. al., but that’s the boring part. Where the Nexus Player has the potential to disrupt its competitors is in games, which Google is taking seriously enough to launch a dedicated game controller. Android’s already extensive game library will be the Nexus Player’s differentiator. Apple TV, your move.

Nexus 6

Nexus 6 phones with Monument Valley screenshot

In the unlocked, flagship smartphone market Google’s Nexus line has traditionally been king, combining top-of-the-shelf hardware with at-cost prices. That’s changed now that the Nexus 6 will debut at $650 unlocked for the 32 GB version. That’s probably a fair price considering its hardware, but it also means Chinese phones like the excellent OnePlus One and Xiaomi Mi4 are safe from competition.

The Nexus 6 has a 6-inch, QHD screen with a Snapdragon 805 processor, 13-megapixel camera, disappointing 2-megapixel front camera and 3220 mAh battery. Google hasn’t published RAM information, which makes me think it may be an unfortunate 2 GB.

While the Nexus 6 announcement was relatively disappointing, I’m still curious about its 6-inch form factor. I always thought 5.5-inches was the upper limit, but maybe the Nexus 6 will change my mind.

From a value perspective, it’s hard to argue the Nexus 6 is a better buy than the OnePlus One. It’s unclear what the 64 GB version of the Nexus 6 will cost, but it’ll effectively double the price of the OnePlus One for just a little bit better hardware.

Google has ceded the “flagship smart money” space to Chinese manufacturers.

Nexus 9

On Google’s webpage, it labels the Nexus 9 as a device “for movers and makers,” no doubt referring to its productivity potential. The Nexus 9 launched with an attachable keyboard, as previously rumored. It is a big step forward to the inevitable future where tablets and laptops converge, and firmly in Microsoft territory.

Nexus 9 with keyboard

Unfortunately, Google has the wrong display size. I have the Surface 2 and frequently wished that it was bigger, and that had a 10.5-inch display. Granted, the Nexus 9 has a 4:3 ratio which means more workable space for any given app, but it also means split view is probably out of the question. It’d be too narrow.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to doing work — or even just writing a blog post, like right now — split screen is critical. So this is a deal breaker for me, and handicaps the Nexus 9’s ability to be a productivity device for most.

The Nexus 9 is priced at $400 for 16 GB and $480 version for 32 GB. That’s not cheap, but to tip the balance the Nexus 9 does offer a super high resolution QXGA screen and the NVIDIA Tegra K1 chip.

Nexus Player

Personalized entertainment from Player on television

The Nexus 6 and 9 may grab more headlines, but they’re less interesting in the sense that they are known quantities. We can more or less reliably estimate their impact. The Nexus 6 is just another premium priced phone developed by a non-Chinese company and the Nexus 9 didn’t quite nail its execution. So, all in all, probably limited but not insignificant impact.

The Nexus Player is more interesting because of its massive potential — this is Google’s play for the living room, and possibly console gaming too. It runs Android TV, the software Google wants to power every TV and set-top box.

Player console, remote and gamepad

The most interesting part of the Nexus Player is its game playing abilities, which I previously argued could disrupt console games, especially with Android’s already impressive catalogue of games. Google is serious enough about games to sell a dedicated game controller. This will also be what differentiates the Nexus Player from the myriad streaming boxes already on the market.

Are games played locally on the Nexus Player, or streamed from an Android device? The Nexus Player has a 1.8Hz Quad Core Intel Atom, 1 GB RAM and a PowerVR Series 6 graphics card…which imply it will play games locally, but maybe not the most complex ones well. It only has 8 GB of storage too, which is concerning given games like Grand Theft Auto takes up 2.4 GB storage alone.

This gives me hope the Nexus Player was designed to stream games from my already powerful Android phone — so when I upgrade my phone again next year, playing games on the Nexus Player will benefit too.

The Nexus Player will cost $100, and the controller is priced at $40.

Executed well, the living room set-top box market could shrink from dozens of possible players to only four: Google, Apple, Sony and Microsoft.

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