Google has for years tried to remake several household items, from thermostats and speakers to smoke detectors and TVs. Now, it's tackling another device lots of people have in their house: Wi-Fi routers.
The search giant on Tuesday unveiled the OnHub, a sleek new router that Google developed with the networking hardware company TP-Link. The $200 device is also meant to eventually help control all the other disparate Internet-connected devices in your home.
The idea is this: Most Wi-Fi routers are ugly, with unruly cords, so people put them on the floor or out of the way where they can't be seen. But that also causes the device to emit a weaker Wi-Fi signal, Google said. The company hopes the answer is making a better-looking device that people don't mind displaying out in the open. It has subtle blinking lights and all its antennas are packed inside its black, cylindrical shell. The device also displays the Wi-Fi password if someone taps on it.
The OnHub is just another sign of Google's ambitions for consumers' homes. The company hopes it can be the go-to place even when people aren't on personal computers or smartphones -- like being the platform that helps people lock their doors, or heat their homes, or make their coffee. Other tech giants, from Apple to Samsung to Amazon, have made strides in that realm as well.
For Google, when it comes to the smart home, most of the heavy lifting at the company comes from Nest, the device maker the company bought for more than $3 billion in 2014. The company, which makes a thermostat, smoke detector and home security camera, was founded by Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive who is considered a hardware guru in Silicon Valley. Fadell and Nest, however, did not work on the OnHub, a Google spokeswoman said.
In May, Google announced a, which aims to help power smart-home devices, even those without screens.
Like Nest products, the OnHub is controlled with a smartphone app for both Apple's iPhone and devices running Android, Google's mobile operating system. The router will get software updates automatically. It also tells you how much bandwidth your devices are using, or lets you prioritize one device for a faster connection (like, say, the one you are using for a Netflix marathon).
The OnHub is available for preorder from websites including Google's online store, Amazon and Walmart.com. It will be in retail stores in the US and Canada in coming weeks, Google said.