Google Launch Android TV Offering Streaming, Games And Casting

The world loves a trier, and Google are certainly that when it comes to connected TV operating systems. From one end of the scale is the flop that was Google TV, and then the blockbustingly successful Chromecast dongle. And now just to confirm things come in three’s, Google have launched the Android TV OS which will combine streaming, games, music and catch-up services.

Android-TV-GoogleThe software announced at Google’s annual I/O developer conference will run on a number of devices including Smart TVs, set-top boxes, and game consoles, with synchronization and control features available from phones, tablets and smartwatches.

Android TV is basically a reworking of the Google TV OS with the familiar Android front end specially adapted for TV watching. The software overlays icons and apps over whatever is being watched either live, streamed or on-demand. The sophisticated search engine can recognize voice commands. and will pick up shows from a number of sources both from streaming services and broadcast TV.

By talking into a phone or tablet, Android TV will provide content sources, recommendations for films, shows and apps. So if for example a user searches for Sons of Anarchy, they will get streaming options from Netflix, and Google Play while also offering cast details and clips. Clicking on a cast member will give a list of films and movies they have starred in.

Playing games will also be a big feature of Android TV, with interaction between the big screen and different controllers including tablets and smartphones.

Android TV devices will also be compatible with the Chromecast stick, offering inbuilt casting features that will mirror what is running on a phone, Chrome OS, or tablet to the Android TV device. Google also confirmed they have sold millions of Chromecasts.

Android TV enabled devices from partners including Sony, Sharp & TP Vision are expected to start hitting the stores by late 2014, and dedicated apps will arrive in the fall to coincide with the new Android OS

Google Preparing To Launch Android TV Box?

After the debacle that was Google TV, the company stepped back and revised the idea. The new service will be called Android TV, and it seems Google is readying the service to be launched in a new set-top box.

Android-TV-Google

Image source The Verge

Reports suggest that Google is having another attempt at bringing the smart internet TV service to consumers,  as they bid to keep up with established rivals Apple TV, Roku, as well as the new entry from Amazon – the Amazon Fire.

The Google TV interface was used as an operating system that powered TV sets, and Blu-ray players from big names such as Sony and Logitech, before being mercilessly killed off.

The new Android TV software would be less complicated according to the report, saying it would be, “an entertainment interface, not a computing platform… It’s all about finding and enjoying content with the least amount of friction.”

The new service will strip out apps that need touch-screen, camera interaction, but solely focus on getting TV and movie content along with games use, just like the new Amazon Fire STB which was launched last week.

The report published by the Verge says that the new slick interface would comprise of scrolling screens that bring the user access to movies, TV shows, apps, and games. Google are said to be in discussions with app developers to create apps, services and games that have consistent interfaces.

Google would launch more simple apps for the streaming media device to appease the average couch potato, and the device would also feature a simple remote just like those found on Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire, making a four way battle for under the TV dominance.

Although Google have already launched the wildly successful Chromecast HDMI stick into the market, this would be a different device that operates as a stand alone internet TV, app and game player which delivers services such as Netflix and Hulu.

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Hisense Aim To Offer Google-Powered Smart TV Services

The Chinese company Hisense have revealed what they hope will be a fresh challenger in the smart TV industry and stem the tide of ‘dongles’, with their Hisense H6 Smart TV.

hisense_logoNoted as being a Smart TV operating Google Services, the company are said to not be limiting themselves to a single new option, with the proposed release of a set-top box (codenamed ‘Pulse Pro’) carrying similar features to their more complete companion.

The H6 is naturally likely to be the more headline-worthy of the pair, and will be a TV that runs on Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), whilst carrying features including 8GB ‘onboard storage’, a 120Hz panel, and 1GB RAM, powered by a ‘Marvell Armada 1500 Plus HD Media Processor’.

Size-wise, the product is expected to feature a number of sizes from ’40 to 55 inches’, whilst all models will be controllable through either a 30-key remote (complete with ‘air mouse’ and voice search capabilities).

The Pulse Pro, meanwhile, is described as a set-top box containing popular pre-loaded apps such as Amazon Instant Movies, Netflix, Vudu, Youtube, and the Google Play Store., carrying similar features with the exception of a 4GB storage offering and ‘Marvell BG2-CT Board’ power, amongst other alterations.

While there will be plenty of alternatives in the market, could the Hisense duo of smart TV products make their mark once released?

Latest TV searches:

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Android KitKat 4.4 Made For Smart TV?

The latest incarnation of the Android OS 4.4 known as KitKat is said to be designed for big screens, just like the ones found on smart TV’s.

android-smart-tvA report by ETNews in Korea says that the new OS will have an improved experience on television sets. Google’s first attempt at an internet based TV set called Google TV received a lukewarm reception.

But now it is rumored that the Google TV name will be rebranded as Android TV, it could be  a smart move to update Android and improve the cross platform  compatibility between smart Android TV’s, smartphones and tablets.

The release could also build on the success of Google’s Chromecast stick that has been selling like hot cakes, and due an international launch soon. A TV with Chromecast abilities built in could prove a huge success, and the ability to download apps that work on a TV could also prove a big hit.

Google have not revealed a release date for Android 4.4, but it’s expected soon.

Latest TV searches:

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Android TV Rebrand Set To Relaunch Failed Google TV

Are Google ready to mercilessly kill off the Google TV brand in a bid to find success in the smart TV market? You better believe it!

The experiment that was Google TV, is set to get a re-brand in the hope of achieving success second time around. As the Google TV brand has failed to connect with consumers it’s reported they will let it die-off.

Will Google TV soon be just a bad memory?

Will Google TV soon be just a bad memory?

A report by GigaOm quoting an ‘unnamed executive’ confirms that the Google TV brand will be dropped while the Android TV platform will take it’s place.

Google are still interested in dominating television sets worldwide of course, but where products running on Google TV have failed to establish themselves in 3 years, the Chromecast streaming stick has taken off in 3 months.

So eager are Google to move on that they are already using the term Android TV while talking to electronics manufacturers about TV products.

The Google android software forms the backbone of both the Chromecast and Sony’s Smart TV dongle that plug into any TV and makes it much smarter.

In fact when Sony launched their Google powered smart stick in September, they made no mention of the Google TV name in any launch material or statements, even though that is basically what the device is.

The move makes perfect sense as the Android name gets more and more popular. When Google TV originally launched, it was much less well known than the Google brand.

Google TV still runs on the older OS at a time that Google are preparing the launch of the latest Android 4.4 KitKat OS. The report says that Google are keen to always have the latest OS running on TV products.

And factor in the massive success of the ‘cheap as chips’, Chromecast stick in America, which is still selling really well, and the android TV brand makes perfect commercial sense.

So the question is, how long before we see the launch of a Android TV set?

Sony Unveil Streaming Set-Top Box on a Stick

A successful theory of various cuisines around the world, is that food is always consumed better on a stick, and Japanese technology giants Sony are banking on such an ideal carrying over to the world of video content, after revealing a new smart TV dongle that they aim to put on shelves against the Google Chromecast product.

sony_smart_stickThe device, similar in use to a USB memory stick (albeit plugging into a TV set’s ‘mobile high-definition link (MHL)’ socket), will carry ‘apps and other smart-TV features’ to its users as a first or alternative connected TV option, not dissimilar to their previous Google TV-based set-top boxes, but with the benefits of even less wiring and more mobility.

Set for an official launch later this week with the expected announcement of an American price of $150 (compared with the $35 the Google Chromecast is listed at), the Sony Smart Stick, based on the Android operating system, will be able to offer users access to a range of apps (including ‘music and games’) and streaming services, including the ability to simultaneously browse the internet and watch TV in a PIP mode.

Aside from the ‘box’ (stick) itself, the Smart Stick will be sold with a remote capable of traditional, touchpad, and voice-control methods.

The official Sony blog first announced the product in a post last Friday (13 February), one which has since been taken down and only accessible by cache. It read: “The BRAVIA Smart Stick makes the 2013 BRAVIA line of televisions smart. Oh, the connected BRAVIA TVs are already grade school smart. The Smart Stick graduates them to PhD-level smarts.

“Viewers can either type or speak into the Smart Stick’s included universal remote and enjoy the power of Google Chrome search for results from cable/satellite providers, the internet, and thousands of apps. It’s so smart it integrates into a user’s existing cable or satellite service so there is no need to clumsily switch inputs to enjoy content from either source. Out of the box, the Smart Stick is pre-installed with apps like Netflix, HuluPlus, Pandora, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube and more. Viewers can personalize their TV experience by adding video, music, games, social networking and news apps from the Google Play Store - just like the ones available for smartphones.”

Speaking to the BBC, Enders Analysis ‘digital media expert’ summarised his (and most people’s) opinion on Sony’s potential in the dongle market against Google, stating: “For many consumers this will boil down to the fact that it’s $150 versus $35. Sony is offering yet another device without offering anything that different from other internet-enabled set-top boxes. There is clearly demand to watch internet video via the TV set, but there’s a whole new price point for these devices and at $150 I don’t think the Smart Stick will fly.”

With such a wide gap in prices, Sony are clearly confident that their product has an edge in technological value and/or their customer base will see it that way based on its higher figure, but with Google’s reputation for a cheap yet effecient product across the mobile device market, is more than quadrupling their rival’s prices a decision that will show any sort of benefit, or will it merely provide the conclusion that Google’s Chromecast is being sold at well below the marker that such products should normally be valued at?

However good the Sony Smart Stick turns out to be, it appears as though they may be bound to defeat in a head-to-head race unless they change a crucial aspect of their sales pitch…