Move Over Google TV: Android TV Heading for Sony Ultra HD Sets This Fall

Everybody can stop speculating about the Android TV. Today, the details of the upcoming streaming platform were unveiled at the Google I/O developer’s conference keynote. Google announced its newest operating system, codenamed “Android L.” Smartphones, tablets, AndroidWear watches, and the Android TV will all be part of this Android ecosystem. Each will be content aware of other Android L devices. Not only will data be synced across devices, second screen information will be instantly available on mobile devices when using the Android TV. This interactivity of Android devices is in sharp contrast to the Google TV which, with the exception of syncing with a Google account, has always lived in its own universe. Android TVs should roll out in the fall incorporated into Sony’s UHD TV models, along with TVs from Sharp and Philip’s TP Vision in Europe. LG, ASUS, and Razer are listed as planning set top box Android TVs.

Unlike the awkward Google TV user interface that was simply a large version of a mobile device's home screen, the Android TV is adapting the Android L design for a 10-foot “lean back experience.” The new “Material Design” layers buttons, notifications, and menus over a background of information, and it employs the sliding card experience currently found in the Google app for Android and iPhones. On the Android TV, cover art and buttons float over background art or the currently playing TV show. Clicking on a particular movie in the grid, will cause a detail card to slide up. As with other Android L devices, the Android TV tracks your habits. It learns what apps you use most and displays them at the top of the apps list for easy access. Likewise, movie and TV show recommendations are based on your viewing habits.

Beyond recommendations, Android TV has a powerful search feature. As I’ve said before, Google TV had the best global search available on a streaming player. Its voice search included movie genres and displayed results from a general description about a movie (e.g., “pirate movies,” or “movies about middle aged romance). The Android TV’s voice core search will take it even further as it can search the Google Knowledge Graph (database). This was demonstrated by asking the Android TV who played “Katniss “ in The Hunger Games . A detail card with Jennifer Lawrence was displayed along with cards linking to the actress’s other films.

For further integration between mobile devices and the Android TV, it will be able to play content from smartphones and tablets using Chromecast capabilities. Users will be able to “Googlecast” video content from smartphones and tablets (including iPhones and iPads) to play on the Android TV. The Android TV will simply show up as a cast option in compatible programs.

Noticeably missing in the announcement was any mention of Google TV. With no new updates, after four short years, it can be presumed dead and on its way out. By all indications at this year’s keynote, Android TV will simply slide in and take its place. Hopefully, the new TV streaming platform will include Hulu Plus, and network TV sites, and not be shunned like the Google TV. It is reasonable to assume that Google has made up with these streaming providers as they are included on the Chromecast. Google also did not make mention of whether or not the Android TV will integrate with live TV in the same way as the Google TV.

Because the developer kit for the Android TV is the same as for other devices, it will be easier for app developers to create new apps to play on the Android TV and will undoubtedly result in many more apps than had been available for Google TV. Where Google TV users had to wade through all apps in the Google Play store to find new apps, in the next months a new Google Play store will be launched that is geared toward Android TV making it easier to find apps optimized for the big screen. No hints were given about what the “L” Android version will ultimately be named. Android versions have been named after sweets—from Cupcake to Gingerbread to Jelly Bean. The previous 4.4 “K” version was “KitKat.” Any bets that L might be “Licorice?” What would you call it?