Google TV is dead. Long live Android TV.
It has been the best of times and the worst of times when it comes to Google delivering a living room experience. First they attempted to saturate the market with Google TV. The set-top boxes and Smart TV-enabled devices were going to allow users to watch live content and access apps with search in mind. The developers were limited and the content providers just simply were not going to fully adopt the platform so it slowly died on the vine.
Then Google introduced the Chromecast, an inexpensive HDMI dongle that would allow users to cast content from their enabled devices to their televisions. The simplicity paid off and it has been one of the more successful hardware ventures that Google has ever undertaken. Now Google announces Android TV which is an attempt to pick up where Google TV left off. This time the content is the centerpiece along voice search in a slick new interface.
The wild card for Google this time around may be games. With thousands of game offerings already available in the Play Store, Google hopes that users will want to bring that handheld experience to their televisions. The experience will be immersive and work on those larger screens. With Google Play Games competitive online modes will be available so we can go up against our friends on our favorite Android games.
To complete that game experience, Android TV will ship with a controller that looks similar to the one that comes with the XBox. This controller will not only be helpful in gameplay, but it also works as a television controller. The experience now will feel more like a PlayStation or XBox interface and a lot less like our Dad’s Google TV. There is even an Android app already available for early testers/developers, the Android TV Remote Control which looks a lot smoother than the clunky old Google TV applications.
The new Android experience will be prevalent with Android TV. Users will be able to use voice to find programming and find details about about movies and actors. But this time instead of having search provide you with empty content, their card interface will provide a smooth flow over data fields. Netflix is already on board with Android TV and unlike Google TV, Hulu is on board this time with content support. We’re only missing Amazon support which may not happen since they entered this space with their own offering, Fire TV.
With Sony, Sharp, Asus and Razr, Android TV will have the hardware partners in place to provide both Android-ready televisions and set top boxes in 2015. Do not expect immediate release of this platform, it will be rolling out over time. Developers can get their hands on that SDK starting Thursday. Google’s hope is that there is enough excitement and interest not only with developers but with content providers this time around to make Android TV a better living room experience. Over time we will see how the platform plays with existing software (if at all) and how the Chromecast will tie into this space.
Let us know what you think. Did Google hit a home run this time, or is this destined that now-notorious Google graveyard?