Although there has been no official confirmation, the Internet is abuzz with reports that software giant Google aims at getting a slice of the hardware market, first by releasing an Android-powered gaming console.

The rumor was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and has been spreading across the world wide web, yet Google refuses to confirm or deny the story, which also mentions plans to develop a smartwatch.

Google Making Android-powered Gaming Console?

The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources as saying that besides an Android-powered gaming console and a smartwatch, Google is also planning to release a revamped, improved version of the Nexus Q. The Nexus Q set-top media streaming device was first announced at last year’s I/O conference but was never released for sale.

According to the same sources, Google is planning to design and market the console and smartwatch itself and release at least one of the two later this year. The move is also aimed at spreading the use of Android software to other devices beyond smartphones and tablets.

No other details are available for the time being, but the development of an Android console and a smartwatch is also seen as a direct move on rival Apple, which is believed to release its own smartwatch this year and has plans to add gaming capacities to its next Apple TV product.

An Android-powered gaming console is nothing new, as several gaming devices running on this operating system have been released recently. The most notable are Nvidia’s Shield handheld console and the Ouya.

The Shield is carrying a hefty price tag that places it in the same league with the Big Three of the gaming industry:  Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Wii U. But Ouya is a much more affordable device: fresh off a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $8 million, the console sells for only $99 and is already sold out on Amazon.

It remains to be seen what market segment the Google console will target: the big-game, big-buck segment dominated by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo or the more accessible and affordable market currently represented by Ouya? What’s certain is that with such a strong brand and name behind, both the console and the smartwatch have a big chance to upset the current balance of forces on the hardware market.

What do you think of Google’s plans? What features would you like to see in a Google gaming console?

[Image via BGR]