-No More Keyboards on the Remote!
-Support from Sony, Sharp, TP Vision and others
Google laid down a winning hand for the living room this week at its yearly developer conference I/O. Google’s burgeoning entertainment ecosystem reached its stride before an audience of thousands when Google’s engineering director David Burke introduced and impressed us with the newest smart TV operating system, Android TV. And Roku, Amazon and Apple should be worried.
Android TV doesn’t appear to have much in common with its predecessor, Google TV. Instead of revamping the old and much ridiculed operating system, Google decided to work from the other end: it moved the Android OS to the largest CE device in the home, the TV screen.
“It’s not a new platform, and that’s the point,” Burke said. “We’re simply giving TV the same level of attention that phones and tablets have traditionally enjoyed.”
He said there is now one Android SDK for all form factors – including the TV set.
Google announced some big names that will support its Android TV system:
3 set/display makers
2+ hardware partners
Burke said “The entire 2015 HD and 4K ranges from Sony, and the 2015 ranges from Sharp and TP Vision’s Philips will run on Android TV.”
As for the cellcos, Burke referred to them in their pay TV capacity: “We’re also seeing activity in the pay TV space with Bouygues, SFR and LG U+.”
LG U+ is a telco in South Korea that is separate from the LG Electronics that makes TV sets, though both are owned by LG Group.
Here are the specifics of the TV operating system:
-Remote control can be done on any device with a D Pad (up down left right) and voice input. That means a tablet or smartphone, a game controller or a regular remote controller, and even Google’s new smartwatch.
-Live TV, which Burke described as the “most integral part of TV” : Android-based TVs can handle video from TV tuners, HDMI, and IPTV receivers.
-Like a mobile device, the TV set now has a “home” screen, where all the content options and sources are collected, just like apps on a smartphone or tablet. “We designed home to be a super simple, lean back experience,” Burke said. Recommendations are at the top, then access to the users most used content apps below it, and games. Burke said the recommendation system is completely open and any app can publish to it. Recommendations are ranked according to usage patterns.
-Search: Google has thrown out the QWERTY keyboard in favor of voice search. “We decided to build a core search functionality directly into the experience, powered by voice,” Burke said. The voice feature removes the need to ever enter text into the screen, just as Amazon did with its Fire TV box. The main difference here is that when the viewer searches for “Breaking Bad,” the first result will be where to watch it – meaning which OTT services or apps have that title available.
The first result is where to watch it as in which OTT services that have it available. Then cast members, then related searches. With cast members, you can get more info about the actor, interviews from YouTube, and other titles in which he or she appears.
The search function is powered by Google, and so can handle a wide swath of questions. Other queries the search feature answered in the demo include:
“Oscar nominated movies from 2002,” which pulls up the list of Oscar nominated films in 2002; and “Who played Katniss in the Hunger Games?” which pulls up a short bio on the actor Jennifer Lawrence and some related content.
-Google Cast support: you can use the TV set as if it had a Chromecast dongle attached. Play music on a phone or tablet, then cast it to the TV.
-Also supports games, using Android’s games found on tablets and smartphones.
The demo had a few holes in it:
-What types of remote controllers or game controllers can be used as remotes? Does the TV need its own remote to turn on/off?
-Does Android TV integrate the pay TV or antenna TV listings into the experience? The demo spent only a few seconds on live TV, and no other pay TV features were highlighted during the demo, which leads us to believe there is very little integration. (Of course, this was a developer conference, aimed at developers, not consumers).
-Does the voice search look through TV listings, DVR recordings or pay TV VoD offerings? Again, probably not.
-When will Android TV be available as a net-top box? Will Google make its own NTB? Burke wowed us with the list of companies supporting Android TV. He said ASUS and Razr would be making streaming devices but didn’t give any specifics. He said the Android TV platform can be used in smart TVs, or on set-top boxes, game consoles and NTBs.
-What will the partnerships with the three pay TV providers look like? Will Android TV serve as the set-top box?
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