Just when it looked like we could pound the last nails into Google TV's coffin, it seems like Google may yet again be targeting the living room with a TV platform called Android TV. According to the tech site The Verge, which reported over the weekend, Android TV would be less complicated than Google TV—more like what you experience with current set-top boxes such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku.
Last fall we reported rumors—courtesy of the GigaOm website—that given the poor reception of Google TV, Google would instead push a newer, simpler version renamed Android TV. Back in 2011 we reported on a Chinese company looking to make Android TV set-top boxes. Android is already the underlying platform of several streaming media players, including the new Amazon Fire TV player. In fact, Fire TV may give us the closest view of what Android TV will be all about.
At CES earlier this year, Hisense—which also offers a Roku-ready TV—showed off a version of Android TV, and we assume Google will reach out to other TV manufacturers. LG had been one of the more vocal supporters of Google TV—it offered two Google TV series in 2013—but didn't include it in any of its announced 2014 models. Instead, it is using the simpler, card-based webOS smart TV platform in about half its smart TVs this year.
That's interesting, as The Verge says the Android TV's interface will also use scrolling cards to represent the various types of content, such as TV shows, movies, games, and apps. Like Amazon's Fire TV, Android TV will reportedly support voice commands. It is also likely to have a powerful recommendation engine that will populate your home screen with content it decides you'll like. Amazon's Fire TV uses its recommendation engine to pre-cache TV shows and movies it thinks you'll want to see to speed up loading.
Google hasn't commented on The Verge's report, so it's still too early to get a firm idea of how Android TV will evolve, and whether it will be something that's baked into TVs, offered in set-top boxes, or both. It's also not really clear how Google's current streaming device, Chromecast, fits within the company's larger vision.
We think some answers are only a few short months away. Google's annual developers' conference takes place at the end of June, and we expect more details will be released then. So keep checking back for updates.
—James K. Willcox
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