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Android Headliner: What Happened To Google TV?

May 11, 2014 - Written By Justin Diaz

Not more than just a few short years ago Google was coming out with a product that at the time, sounded quite amazing and was starting to raise some excitement. It was Google TV. In the beginning, Google TV was something that plenty of people would have been happy to have in their homes, and after success of Android started to take off back before Google TV’s actual arrival, it was no surprise that Google was ready and willing to take on the living room to provide such a product. The idea of having a TV that could browse and search the web, and have access to many of Google’s services and the Play Store was something that seemed entirely desirable. Over time though Google TV fizzled out, and there wasn’t really just any one factor. Google TV was based off of Honeycomb which at the time was fairly current and was Google’s tablet build for the OS. It only seemed natural that if they were going to build Google TV to run on an Android based OS it would be based off of something that was potentially more suited for the job. Google’s smartphone builds for the OS weren’t being used for bigger screen devices like tablets because the design just didn’t look good on larger screens, so there was no way it could ever work for TVs. Using Honeycomb was fine at first, but as time went on most Google TV boxes and Google TV powered televisions were never updated, so the OS became quickly outdated which made it increasingly difficult to grab support for some of peoples favorite apps.

That’s another huge pain point for many Google TV users, and another part of why it failed. The lack of apps. While most people who were using Google TV were probably not expecting to have all the same available content on their TVs as they had on their Android devices, there was a glaring setback that would stare users right in the face every time they turn on their TVs. There just simply wasn’t enough applications. For years I was envious of everyone who ever owned and used a Google TV set top box or had one of those TVs with Google TV built right in. I wanted to have that kind of access, and I needed to have a high powered TV experience that I could use to bring up and browse the web or play a game, or even watch YouTube. The thing is, there were already numerous other ways for me to do those things without Google TV, and after I had finally acquired a Google TV box for myself just last year(some three years after it was launched), I quickly realized this fact and quickly became less interested with it.

So I had browser access now through my actual TV set with a remote. That was great, but by this time I also already had browser access through my Xbox 360 so if I really wanted to browse the web I could use that too, and I was using that more often anyways. YouTube? Xbox had that as well and it was way easier to navigate then using the clunky remote that came with Netgear Neo TV Prime box. To be quite honest, past those two specific applications and uses, there wasn’t really much to capture me in terms of applications and many users probably felt the same way. This was evident after reading many reviews, both before and after having purchased my own box. Applications weren’t just a headache for the users, they were a headache for developers too. It was difficult to get apps built for the Google TV platform because of the bigger size screen. If building apps was more difficult than anticipated and developers were losing interest, then eventually it was only a matter of time before they stopped trying to build apps entirely. Which left consumers without more content to use.

Lack of apps wasn’t Google TVs only setback of course, initially it was also more expensive than competing options. Google TV was built off of Intel architecture in the beginning so they were more costly to make and thus ended up more costly to buy as well. That eventually changed but perhaps by that point it was too late. Fast forward to now and you have a much cheaper option than Google TV to use some of the same services. The Chromecast, Google’s $35 HDMI streaming dongle does all the best parts of Google TV(minus the browser portion of course)for a fraction of the cost and all by navigating things from our phones or tablets, which is infinitely more user friendly than trying to use any of the Google TV remotes that were ever manufactured. YouTube, Google Play Movies and Music, Hulu, Netflix, they were all usable through Google TV at some point even if not from the get go, but they’re also now usable with Chromecast all without developers having to build a separate app. This not only cuts out extra work for developers to have the need to build for a totally different platform, but users don’t have to use an entirely different app to access the same content as they would with a Google TV.

While Google didn’t plan for Google TV to turn out this way, the fact that it never really caught on with consumers for various reasons had caused them to rethink how they plan to attack the living room. Rumors had started spreading about Android TV last year in October, and we now know that Android TV is on its way and is Google’s idea of redefining how apps work on our TV. We have already seen some devices powered by Android like the new line of Phillips Ambilight 4K TVs, as well as the Hisense Pulse Pro that was unveiled at CES. These may not be exactly the Android TV that Google is envisioning and may be completely separate devices that simply run version of Android, nevertheless, Google TV had enough standing in the way of its success from an expensive start to the lack of interest from consumers which has finally led Google to say goodbye to the project it once felt so strongly for. Google TV won’t be forgotten though. Perhaps it is being reborn like a Phoenix in the form of Android TV, and hopefully we’ll see much more success and a more compelling nature of content to get consumers excited.