Google’s Android TV Quietly Prepares to Take Over Living Rooms Worldwide

-Android TV Poised to Become the Dominant Entertainment Technology Ecosystem
– TV Sets, Net-Top Boxes and Game Consoles to Appear This Year

With three announcements last week about new products available around the world that support Android TV, it’s becoming clear Google has a huge advantage over Apple, Amazon, Roku, Microsoft or Sony.

Apple’s plans for Apple TV stole the limelight this month, but Google is quietly becoming the dominant force in home entertainment thanks to Android TV – its answer to Apple, Roku, and Amazon.

As audiences continue to fragment across viewing devices and entertainment services, platform unity across devices will become an increasingly important component to any CE device. That fact spurred Comcast’s Randall Hounsell, VP of mobility solutions, to predict 2015 to be an important year for Google.

“In the OTT world, one of the biggest problems is the fragmented environment for building applications,” Hounsell said, speaking on a panel at CES earlier this year. The platform that unites the most customers to the most devices will ultimately take the lead in the ecosystem, and Hounsell thinks that’s going to be Google. “One thing that’s going to big in 2015 is Android TV,” he said.

 

The Android Ecosystem

Android TV is the new living room piece of Google’s now-all-encompassing Android technology ecosystem. The smart TV operating system is based on Android Lollipop, the most current version of the OS.

Google first unveiled the new TV OS and entertainment platform last year.

Android TV

      Android TV: big in 2015

 

Initial responses to the platform were positive, thanks to its slick user interface and integration with other Android products, making the TV platform the last piece of the Android puzzle.

Like everything else Google does, Android TV is an open platform, which will help it gain hardware partners who don’t want to spend money developing their own OS.

Android ecosystem now includes:
-over 80% of the smartphone market, according to estimates from IDC
-60% of the tablet market, according to IDC
-20% of the NTB market, according to Parks Associates, with Chromecast dongles outselling Apple TVs in 2014, according to IHS estimates
-Nexus Player NTBs
-Android TV smart TVs from Xiaomi, TP Vision’s Philips, Sharp and Sony, including 4K models
Razer’s Forge TV gaming consoles
Nvidia’s Shield 4K gaming console
-Free Mobile’s Freebox 4K STB

And let’s not forget these OTT content services:
-Google Play store offering movie and TV show downloads and rentals
-Google Play Music, offering unlimited streaming for $9.99
-YouTube, the world’s global video provider

Thanks to Google Cast, Google’s version of Airplay, most anything available on Android-based smartphone, tablet or even Chrome browser can be sent to the TV screen with a Chromecast attached, which essentially closes the entertainment circuit.

With its impressive device reach and content services, Google has positioned itself as the most thorough, pervasive and cross-platform entertainment system around the world.

 

Android TV Will Debut in US, UK and China This Year

Android TV devices are set to appear in at least three markets this year: the US, UK and China – an important market because of its size, and one where Google already dominates in smartphones.

* In the States, Sony is releasing its line of new Bravia UHD and HD TV sets sporting the Android TV operating system. All of Sony’s new smart TVs operate on Android TV. They are slated to appear in stores in May of this year, priced between $1,300 and $8,000.

* Sharp’s line of new 4K and HD TVs will also be sporting Android TV. They aren’t scheduled to appear until late 2015. The entry-level sets are priced below $1,000. The UH and UB lines are all UHD TV sets.

* TP Vision launched its first Android TVs in the States last year, and is launching its next generation of Android TV sets later this year. In the UK, TP Vision has said 80% of its new UHD and HD TV sets support Android TV. The company confirmed this week that it’s planning to release UHD and HD models in the UK in the first half of 2015.

* In China, Xiaomi has unveiled the Mi TV 2 series, the first Android TV-based smart TVs to hit China. The sets are available in both HD and UHD, and are priced between $320-$645, in sizes ranging from 42 inches to 49 inches.

 

Android TV Net-Tops in US, UK and France

Google launched its new NTB last fall in the US, and has begun taking orders for the device in the UK.

The Nexus Player has Intel’s 1.8GHz Quad Core Atom processor. It comes with 8GB of storage and 1GB of RAM. It connects to the TV set with an HDMI cord, and connects to the Internet with built-in 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi. It also has a micro-USB port for playing personal media on the TV set.

It supports Google Cast, so viewers can push videos from their personal smartphones or tablets onto the TV screen. The remote control uses voice features to make searching for specific content easier. Google is also selling a gamepad control for Android games on the TV set.

The NTB has OTT video apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, PBS Kids, YouTube, TED, Crackle, Pluto.TV, Plex Media, Dailymotion, Huffpost Live, TuneIn, Drama Fever, and others.

In France, broadband and Internet TV operator Free Mobile has unveiled Freebox, a 4K-capable net-top box based on Android TV. Free Mobile is a subsidiary of telco Illiad.

The box is designed to deliver “a comprehensive suite of streaming, terrestrial, on-demand, and recorded content,” the company said. Freebox has Broadcom’s BCM7252 SoC, which supports HEVC, and 10-bit, 4K resolution content at 60 frames per second. It also has the dual-core Brahma15 10.5K DMIPS processor. The NTB has 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and uses Bluetooth with the remote control. The box also supports Google Cast.

Through Free, viewers can receive over 200 TV channels on the box, and can access that content on mobile devices with a Freebox TV app.

 

And a 4K-Ready Gaming Console

Google is taking on the likes of Xbox, PlayStation and Amazon with its next-generation game consoles. Nvidia unveiled a net-top box gaming console that is powered by Android TV at last week’s gaming developer’s conference. Nvidia is calling the console the world’s first 4K Android TV NTB. The console, called Shield, will launch in May for $199.

Jen-Hsun Huang Nvidia Shield

Nvidia’s Jen-Hsun Huang presenting Shield console

 

It has all the Android video apps, access to the Google Play store, and supports 4K video playback at 60Hz and 10-bit color depth. It has a HEVC decoder, 802.11 ac Wi-Fi and a gigabit Ethernet port. Inside is Nvidia’s Tegra X1 chip. The console also offers over 50 game titles available on Android.

“Shield will change the way we enjoy digital entertainment at home,” Nvidia president and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said, during the presentation. “It’s an incredibly powerful, efficient and advanced living room entertainment device. It’s the best Android TV experience. And it can transform into a serious gaming machine.”

 

Skipr’s Pay TV+ Android TV Hybrid NTB

The final Android TV device to make headlines this week is Skipr, a yet-to-launch technology that is looking to launch a commercial-skipping NTB. Skipr’s technology recognizes commercial breaks as they appear on linear TV, and offer the viewer alternative video to watch while the commercials play.

Skipr is working on an Android-based NTB that connects to a pay TV STB. The box will have a quad-core 2 GHz processor, ARM 8-Core graphics and 1 GB of RAM, and will support 4K video. Skipr hasn’t released pricing to launch dates yet….

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