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Google takes aim at Apple with new devices, OS

Google is expected to unveil two new Nexus smartphones, its new mobile operating system and the next generation of its Chromecast streaming device at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Analysts will be watching closely, but not just for product updates: The event marks Sundar Pichai's first presentation as CEO and investors will be looking for signals of a change in direction for Google's business.

"[It] will be interesting to see if Pichai talks about any topics other than products. Will he discuss business or organizational goals‎ for Google? [We] will be looking for signs of how active or distinct of a CEO he will be," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney.

Pichai is expected to unveil Google's new flagship Nexus phones from LG and Huawei. The Nexus 6P is Huawei's first Nexus device and, according to Android Police, will be available for pre-order on Tuesday in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada and Japan starting at $499.99 and the device features a metal body, Gorilla Glass 4, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v 2.1 processor and 3450mAh battery.

The Nexus line provides Google with the opportunity to show off the features of its new Android software. Most device makers and carriers customize Android, but Nexus phones run an unchanged version, allowing Google to showcase its vision for the new OS dubbed "Android Marshmallow."

The two new Nexus phones Pichai is expected roll out are an important part of Google's pitch to developers to get them to build apps on the platform. According to Comscore, Android has 51 percent of the US smartphone market share and an even greater share of the pie outside the U.S., where Apple's iOS devices are less popular.

Android Marshmallow, first unveiled in May, includes some key new features to rival Apple's iOS 9 and is expected to be released in early October.

Android Pay — a rival to Apple Pay — lets users pay for products using an Android phone, and virtual assistant Google Now gets an upgrade with Now On Tap, which let users access the service by holding down the home button, just like Apple's Siri. The new feature also incorporates information Google knows about users, such as location data and data from gmail, to suggest useful information.

Pacific Crest analyst Evan Wilson said that the fragmentation of Android limits its impact in the short term. Only 21 percent of Android smartphones are currently running Google's latest Android OS, Lollipop, according to the Google Play store.

Still, Android has "closed the functionality gap with [Apple's] iOS at high end and is now a true competitor," Wilson said an important step since Android phones are generally seen as targeted to more price-conscious users.

Google is also expected to announce the second generation of Chromecast stick with home screen support for streaming video and improved Wi-Fi capabilities, and a new Chromecast audio stick for streaming music. Android Police reports that Google will also announce a Play Music family plan for $15 per month for up to 6 devices, rivaling similar offerings from Spotify and Apple. It's all part of Google's effort to get more devices using Google's platform.

With Android facing probes in Europe and reportedly in the U.S. over antitrust claims, first reported by Bloomberg, Google is under increased scrutiny from regulators, though analysts are split on how much of a threat these investigations pose to Google's business. "For now, we are assuming that regulatory scrutiny of Android will not lead to any material changes at Google. Largely because there are no direct revenue streams associated with Android," said Mahaney.

But SunTrust analyst Robert Peck says Wall Street is not so optimistic. "Many believe there could be some cash penalty, akin to what Microsoft saw several years ago (several billion). However, the much more important part would be any impact to top-line growth rates, should Google be forced to emphasize other services (i.e., YELP) over its own," he said.