Google Takes Another Shot At The TV

Introduces ‘Android TV’ For Smart TVs, Set-Tops and Streaming Devices
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Taking aim at Roku, Amazon, Apple and others that have developed software and apps platforms for the big screen, Google on Wednesday introduced Android TV, a version of its operating system that’s optimized for a variety of third-party connected TVs and set-tops, as well as specialized streaming devices and gaming machines.

Looking to succeed where its original Google TV efforts failed, Android TV, announced at Google’s I/O developer’s conference, will feature prominently in the coming “L” release of Android, which is being developed to work across the usual suspects – smartphones and tablets – but to also work on a new line of wearable devices and connected cars.

Android TV “is not a new platform,” stressed Dave Burke, director of engineering at Android. The idea is to give the TV “the same level and attention as [Android] phones and tablets have enjoyed.”

Google said Android TV-based devices can be controlled by any device with a “D-Pad,” meaning game controllers, traditional hardware remotes, as well as “virtual” software-based  controllers that run on tablets and smartphones can all play part.

Sharing traits found in the new Amazon Fire TV box, devices powered by Android TV will also allow users to search and find video titles and associated information using a voice-control feature, and will support a library of gaming titles and a recommendations engine.

Accounting for the bigger screen, Android TV will feature a “leanback” navigation experience that overlays the video running on the TV screen while also providing access to Netflix and other apps that are built for the more TV-focused version of the platform. The Android TV app store is expected to open in the fall alongside the launch of the new Android “L” operating system.

Taking a page from the Chromecast playbook, Android TV will also support Google Cast, which allows users to beam video and other content from their browsers, smartphones and tablets to the TV screen.

Burke also named some of Android TV’s initial set of tech and device partners.

On the TV front, he said 2015 HD and 4K smart TVs from Sony will run on  Android TV, as well as 2015 TV product ranges from  Sharp and TP Vision. Streaming boxes powered by Android TV from Asus, Razr and others not yet named will debut in the fall. Silicon partners include Marvell, Intel, Broadcom, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and STMicro, among others.

Google also spread some love to the Chromecast, the popular streaming adapter it launched last July.

Among the coming features is new “discovery experience” on the Android, IoS and Chrome platforms that promises to make it easier for Chromecast users to find apps that use Google Cast. Since launching the Google Cast software development kit (SDK) in February, more than 6,000 registered developers are now building about 10,000 Google Cast-based apps, said Rishi Chandra, director of project management for Chromecast.

Among other new Chromecast features on the way, users will soon be able to mirror the screen of their Android phone or tablet on the TV screen.