Google to unveil Android TV platform at I/O conference next month

written by: Richard Kastelein

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androidtvnewAccording to GigaOM,  Google is set to launch a new Android TV platform at its upcoming Google I/O conference in June. The article also says the new platform will be a revamped version of what Google already has with its Google TV platform and will focus mainly on online content and Android gaming rather than integrating with existing pay TV services:

Android TV won’t be another device, but rather a platform that manufacturers of TVs and set-top boxes can use to bring streaming services to the television. In that way, it is similar to Google TV, the platform the company unveiled at its 2010 Google I/O conference. But while Google TV was focused on marrying existing pay TV services with apps, Android TV will at least initially be all about online media services and Android-based video games.

The big, obvious question about Android TV is: Why would Google do this? The company failed when it tried a similar platform approach with Google TV, and landed a success when it launched its Chromecast streaming stick last summer. Google still hasn’t provided any concrete numbers, but executives have said that the company has sold millions of Chromecasts, which is significantly more than Google TV’s hardware partners ever sold. Chromecast also has support from most major, and a growing number of smaller content publishers, and Google has said that it wants to get consumer electronics manufacturers to add cast capabilities to their own devices in the near future. So why would Google launch yet another, seemingly competing product?

Google already has a hit in Chromecast. So why does it need another TV platform?

 

There are two answers to this question. One is strategic, one is political. At Google I/O, you are likely going to hear the first one, which goes a bit like this: Chromecast is a great, inexpensive device for consumers that want to use their mobile devices to launch content on their TV. But due to its aggressively priced, limited hardware, it’s not capable of everything.

Darrell Etherington from Techcrunch reports:

Android TV sounds like it could have similar goals in mind to Amazon’s Fire TV; namely, it aims to be a single source platform for media regardless of the service where it’s found. A new UI layer called “Pano” internally is the core of the product, says GigaOM, and it presents show episodes and movies in a card-style interface right away when an Android TV device is launched. This means that content is foregrounded, rather than apps, so that users can get watching immediately instead of having to select a service first. The idea seems to be that service providers take a back seat to the actual content they house, which makes sense, given that those shows and movies are what consumers are after to begin with.

The gaming focus is also something that Google’s Android TV effort would share with Amazon’s approach, if this report is accurate. Overall, it really seems like Google is building an approach to television that incorporates the same kinds of lessons that Android itself said it learned about the current crop of smart TVs from users reviews on its site when building its media streamer. And of course, Android TV would extend the reach of the company’s mobile OS, into a medium where it’s easy to imagine the potential for advertising and search-based revenue.

Google has some advantages, including a likely willingness to work with OEMs to build this kind of thing directly into television sets as well as inexpensive Internet-enabled dongles. It’s interesting to see it move away from the app paradigm instead of embracing that, given Android’s software advantage there, but if the failure of smart TV devices to really take off before now indicates anything, it’s that users don’t want their TVs to be giant smartphones – they’re looking for something unique to the medium, and perhaps Android TV is exactly that.

About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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