Is Google building a Nexus TV box to push development for Android on TV?

Google (S GOOG) is building a Nexus-branded TV set-top box that could launch in the first half of 2014, according to a report from the Information (subscription required). The device is running Android, and is apparently doubling as a game console.┬áThe Information’s story doesn’t feature many additional details, which is why it’s worth it to back up and look at this with some context:

There have been numerous rumors about a Nexus TV device over the last year, including a report by the Wall Street Journal that then-Android boss Andy Rubin showed off such a device at the CES in Las Vegas in January. Around the same time, Bloomberg also reported that LG was building a Nexus-branded Google TV device.

However, Google’s strategy in the living room has clearly undergone changes. Whereas Google initially wanted to conquer the living room with its Google TV platform, it surprised everyone in July by introducing Chromecast, a streaming adapter that closely integrates with smart phone apps. Chromecast has since seen some success: Google hasn’t disclosed any sales figures for the device yet, but it has remained in the Top 3 of most-sold electronics on ever since its introduction.

The second part of that story is Google’s quiet move to abandon the Google TV brand, something we first reported in October. Google and its hardware partners have stopped using Google TV branding, and instead been calling newly introduced devices Android TV, or Android-based smart TVs, with “Google services for TV.”

These new devices are based on a more recent version of Android, and Google is now treating TVs as just another type of Android device. The company is also looking to bring these new generation of Android TV devices to more operators, and most recently signed a deal with France’s SFR to do just that.

Releasing a Nexus-branded TV device would make sense for Google in that context, as it could provide developers with a way to optimize their apps for the big screen without having to deal with any customizations present on devices distributed by other consumer electronics manufacturers or even pay TV operators. However, with the Nexus brand, it would just be that: a device for developers and enthusiasts, while Google’s mainstream consumer business clearly resides elsewhere.