Music is social: the Nexus Q

Music is social. It's a social affair. It is best experienced in the company of others. I came to that conclusion after using Spotify. At first, like many other, I was skeptical of the social graph where I could see what my friends were listening to. But, overtime I found it interesting and actually picked up some new music that way. I believe the whole point of music is to enjoy it with others, to share it with others. To see the parts that people clap their hands or even sing along to. To expose people to new music that they might come to love. People are more likely to listen to new music when it is suggested to them by their friends. Of course, this can't be don't over the interwebs. On that regard, I believe Google was on the right track with the Nexus Q.


The Nexus Q began as Project Tungsten at Google I/O 2011. It was part of Google's Android@Home effort to introduce Android to home appliances. To have Android serve as something that controls all your applicants, basically the dream of home automation.

Some prototypes were shown off. The origins of the lights on Q can be seen in this early prototype.


We also see the sphere shape that we are now familiar with. However, with this prototype one could tap CD cases with hypothetical NFC tags in them and the album would start playing, as well add itself to your library.


The Future Begins:

Fast forward to I/O 2012 and we see Project Tungsten in its final form. We've seen this sphere shape before, but with none of the CD tapping features. It's not that surprising that Google wasn't able to make the necessary deals with the music industry. Then again, users can just rip the CD and upload it to Play Music. It's also logical to assume that Google wasn't serious with the concept in the first place.


Regardless, touted as the first social streaming media player we have the Nexus Q. The very example used on stage was a group of friends listening to music, each sharing the song they like, "playing the DJ." Exposing one another to different songs, as well as videos. Sadly, this experience was only replicated on stage, by tech journalist, and those who preordered (undoubtedly techy people.) The Nexus Q never reached the mainstream and as a result deprived the public of the social music listening experience. I believe an experience that once people are exposed to will not want to go back.

Design-wise, the Nexus Q is an object to be desired. The industrial design is unique and beautiful. An almost symetical sphere with lights dancing around as one interacts with it. On your shelf of plain dull black TV boxes, it stands out and is something that you actually want to put in display in your house. To have visitors curious and spin the top piece. Foolishly, I kind of want to own one, if just to put on my night stand, but sadly can't anymore (here that Google, hint hint!)

"Music is best enjoyed with friends."

The Nexus Q streams everything from the cloud. There is no local storage except for caching content, which is not user accesible in the first place. Many pundits complained that one could not stream the content on their devices to the Q. Rather, all your content must be on Google Play ahead of time. But, I believe Google had the right idea. In the first place, there is no industry standard way to stream content from one device to another, DLNA was not widely used and Apple's Airplay was limited to Apple devices. It was rather smart for Google to do away with that entire problem and just have our devices be the controller.

Made in the USA, baby:

And there was also the issue of price. The hefty $299 price tag for something that pales in comparison feature-wise to the much cheaper Apple TV and Roku must have warded people off. It would be extremely likely that a device like would be a hard sell in stores, such as Best Buy. That price tag is a result of being Made in America.


At that time, Google had managed to make manufacturing in the United States a hot topic of discussion. But, sadly it died out. I believe that was a discussion that we should be having. It has been partly revived when Tim Cook announced that Apple was going to beging manufacturing stateside, but alas the topic has died down again. It was the right conversation to be having. Besides a price tag, what 's necessarily wrong with being a tech enthusiast as well as being patriotic with the gadgets we so dearly love. And yes, I do realize I'm taking a rather US-centric tone. This is veering from my main point that music should be social, but one last tidbit on Made in the USA. Over the summer, I did an informal pole in my school's Facebook group. I asked whether one would pay an extra $100 for an American made iPhone. Out of the 50 people that replied (out of a group of 200), all but one said no. Going on the presumption that "children are the future," that is a rather sad fact for the future.

In Closing:

I believe Google had the right idea with the Nexus Q. Making music a social experience. The way that music should be enjoyed. Is that not why we clamor to concerts? Do musicians not feel more interrogated when they are performing in a crowd? A side tangent, in Live Albums where we can also here the passion and enthusiasm the artist has for his music when he or she is interacting with the crowd.

Hopefully, this will not be the last of the Q. Hints point to seeing something in January.