The awaited replacement for Google TV might see the light of day this month at Google’s I/O Conference. While still based on the search giant’s mobile OS, Android TV is meant to represent a different approach at home entertainment.
What I believed in March to be a Nexus TV focusing on gaming turns out to be a new TV platform based on Google’s mobile operating system. Powered by Pano, Android TV will maintain that focus. At the same time, the search giant will partner with media services including hulu, Netflix, Songza, Pandora and Vevo, in order to expand even more the platform. On top of that, Google is in talks with various manufacturers that will provide the hardware for this platform. The usual suspects are Sony, Vizio and Haier, but other names might make the list, as well.
Pano, the cards-based UI that focuses on content rather than on apps, was unveiled in April, when the Verge made public an internal document. Besides the aforementioned services, Pano also featured a Games section, suggesting that it will focus heavily on this side, as well. What this UI seemed to lack was originality, as it resembled the interfaces of both Netflix and Android FireTV.
Google already has Chromecast, the Chrome OS HDMI dongle that enables people to mirror the content played on their mobile devices to the TV, so why would the company ever want to make a competing product? Well, Chromast serves pretty much a single purpose, and that one isn’t gaming. Its hardware is also limited, which means that it can’t run everything you’d like. Besides, Google wants to provide the hardware necessary for gaming along with the new Android TV platform.
One thing that will work in Google’s advantage is the fact that there aren’t any real competitors in this field. The TV platforms made by Roku and Opera, for example, don’t stand a chance against smart TV manufacturers as LG or Samsung.
I wish Google had taken a more global approach to its products. The partnerships with Netflix, hulu and Pandora are great, but these media services are not accessible from outside the US. They may very well expand at some point to include users from other countries, but for the time being, these are only available to Americans.