Google guns for Apple TV
Real-world device testing begins
Google is working on an in-home entertainment gadget able to stream content from the internet - or, at least, it's testing such a device in employees' homes.
The online advertising company asked the US Federal Commmunications Commission in December 2011 if it could test "an entertainment device" with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on board  "outside the laboratory environment".
Little else is known about the device, but it's not hard to envisage a Google alternative to the Apple TV, Western Digital WD TV Live and Roku set-top streamers, all of which present net-hosted content on your TV screen.
Google has its music service and, through YouTube, a video on demand offering too. What it lacks, perhaps, is a unified brand along the lines of Apple's iTunes to bring them together, but maybe it considers that consumers are happy with its sub-brands.
Either way, it provides the company with yet another way of monitoring what kind of entertainment you like and using that data to make sure you and yours are fed with appropriate ads when you're browsing at home.
But it's not merely media that Google has its eye on. Insiders cited by the New York Times say the company views the box as the start of a line of products that will take on home automation roles  too, managing lights, heating and appliances as well as entertainment equipment.
There have been rumours that Apple has similar notions about expanding its set-top box line into a broader 'digital home' control centre. ®