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According to documents obtained exclusively by The Verge last week, Google is about to relauch and rebrand a new Google TV as Android TV:
According to documents obtained exclusively by The Verge, Google is about to launch a renewed assault on your television set called Android TV. Major video app providers are building for the platform right now. Android TV may sound like a semantic difference — after all, Google TV was based on Android — but it’s something very different. Android TV is no longer a crazy attempt to turn your TV into a bigger, more powerful smartphone. "Android TV is an entertainment interface, not a computing platform," writes Google. "It’s all about finding and enjoying content with the least amount of friction." It will be "cinematic, fun, fluid, and fast."
What does that all mean? It means that Android TV will look and feel a lot more like the rest of the set top boxes on the market, including Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Roku.
Google’s new vision for Android TV is less ambitious and easier to understand. The company is calling for developers to build extremely simple TV apps for an extremely simple set-top-box interface. While Android still lives under the hood, the interface will consist of a set of scrolling "cards" that represent movies, shows, apps, and games sitting on a shelf. You use a remote control with a four-way directional pad to scroll left and right through different suggestions, or up and down through different categories of content, each with their own shelves. Much like on other set top boxes, each item will be like a miniature movie poster or book cover, and you’ll pick the one you want. The controller will also have Enter, Home, and Back buttons to help get around, and there will be "optional" game controllers.
Android TV will also support voice input and notifications — though Google is encouraging developers to only use notifications in very limited cases. In total, Android TV is remarkably similar to Amazon's just-released, Android-based Fire TV.
Interestingly, a quick search of Alibaba.com reveals that there are some 211,065 products from 1,280 suppliers with the words "Android TV) (largely from Asia) which makes for interesting choice on Google's part in terms of brand dilution on one hand - or brand velocity on the other. Consumers are bound to be confused, and there's only going to be more cheap Android TV's (non-Google) coming to market from China.There are no details about a launch date, but the documents suggest that Google is currently recruiting developers to build apps for Android TV. These plans shouldn’t affect Google Chromecast, another of the company’s efforts to build a TV platform.