Google Could Be Preparing to Take On Sony, Microsoft in Console Wars

Google Could Be Preparing to Take On Sony, Microsoft in Console Wars

For nearly 20 years, the console wars have been the purview of just three companies: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Of the three, Microsoft is the newcomer, with “just” 17 years in the business, compared with 24 for Sony and 35 for Nintendo if you count from the Japanese release of the original Famicom. Since Sony entered the market with the PlayStation, no firm besides Microsoft has successfully broken into the major console market and one (Sega) was forced to exit it. A great deal of verbiage has been written about the difficulty of breaking into consoles, focusing on the huge amounts of money it typically takes and the need to be willing to take a loss on hardware to push software to market. But now there are rumors that Google wants in on this space, and that it might move on that sooner, rather than later.

Now, you could maybe try to get ahead of some of this with better compression technology and possibly a custom approach to an existing standard, but that’s going to require better hardware for encode/decode. H.265 may crunch video into about half the bandwidth of H.264, but it also eats significantly more CPU power to do it. On the positive side, if Google wanted to go the local route — or offer a box that has a mixture of both cloud and local gaming — it has a better platform with which to do it than it used to. There’s an Android-specific Vulkan API implementation and OpenGL ES 3.2 added support for tessellation, and ASTC texture compression via the Android Extension Pack (AEP).

Google Could Be Preparing to Take On Sony, Microsoft in Console Wars

While Google faces incredibly long odds in any effort to bring a new console to market, both in terms of attracting developer support and building a viable hardware platform, the company does have a few specific advantages it brings to the table. Owning services like YouTube give it a powerful ability to incorporate game streaming and content sharing from its own device. Instead of attempting to stream games from a local router already straining to handle the game itself, Google might be able to serve that data off its own infrastructure, provided you used a Google service.

The most obvious hardware partner for Google in all this, at least if it’s targeting a box that would compete against Sony / Microsoft / Nintendo, is Nvidia. While AMD has done a tremendous job with the PS4 and Xbox wins, Nvidia has expertise in key areas where Google would benefit: ARM CPUs (both hardware and software), Android, GPU design and development (again, both hardware and software), and the microconsole and console business. It’s the ARM and Android expertise that put this one over the edge for Team Green — if, of course, what Google wants to build is a relatively high-end, premium product. If the company is looking to enter the market with something that’d be entirely Google-branded and “owned,” it has a plethora of options, from major partners like Qualcomm to smaller SoC manufacturers like AllWinner.

It’s not clear yet when Google will announce products, if it ever does. Long-running projects that are dropped or picked up on a whim is, after all, kind of Google’s Thing. But the company’s entry into the console market could fundamentally shake up the space, if it can win traction for its offering and platform.

Continue reading

Huawei’s Phone Deal With AT&T Reportedly Killed On Account of Politics

The upcoming (and unannounced) deal with AT&T to sell the new Mate 10 series was supposed to be the start of Huawei's push into North America, but the deal has reportedly fallen apart at the last minute after AT&T got cold feet, and some sources point to a political cause.

Nvidia May Be Prepping a New GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q to Counter Intel, AMD

Nvidia is reportedly readying a new version of the GTX 1050 Ti with a Max-Q spin on the silicon. Is it a move against AMD's just-announced Vega Mobile or a shot across the bow of Intel's Vega-equipped CPUs?

At Detroit Auto Show, 3 New Pickups Could Hit 30 MPG

At Detroit, two new full-size pickups debut to challenge the Ford F-Series that sold almost 1 million units last year. Ford brings back the Ranger nameplate to offer more choices in the midsize-pickup market.

New VR Tracking Tech Could Solve Platform’s Biggest Woes

Virtual reality is a potentially revolutionary tech with some significant usability problems. One company thinks it can change that.