According to Kotaku, Google has been working secretly on a console, codenamed Yeti, for a while now.
This console will apparently make use of "some sort of streaming platform" which could help eliminate the hardware limitations developers are faced with on other consoles or PC. Someone familiar with the project said to imagine playing The Witcher 3 in a tab on Chrome. This does sound pretty amazing, but streaming services in the past have been plagued by lag and bad video compression so it will be interesting to see what Google is planning here.
There will be "some sort of hardware", but it is unclear at this point whether this will be something that will compete with the next generation of Xbox and Playstation, or just feature entry level components that will rely mostly on the streaming aspect of the console.
There is also mention of Google meeting with several gaming companies earlier this year at Game Developers Conference as well as at E3 a few weeks ago. According to Kotaku's sources Google don't just want developers to work on games for Yeti, but they are looking to buy studios outright.
This isn't the first time a company from traditionally outside the gaming industry tries to enter the industry. Amazon acquired Twitch a couple of years ago and is also working on its own game engine. Nothing has really come of it yet though, with them having not released a major game yet despite spending a lot of money in the industry.
Streaming can be a positive or a major negative depending on the user's Internet infrastructure. Considering the Internet speed I'm used to here in South Africa I am very sceptical about a streaming focused console being viable for our market in it's current state. In other countries where Google have their own fiber initiative, Google Fiber, it has to potential to do really well.
If they go the traditional console route and try to compete with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, what games will they launch with? It's going to be interesting to see if Google can get big name developers to take a chance on an untested brand in the video game console space. They certainly seem to have the bottomless pockets needed for a project like this. It will be interesting to see how these rumours play out.