A report from GigaOm says that Google is about to abandon the Google TV brand and rename it Android TV. This could be the best move for the platform so let’s take a look at both Google TV and Android to see why.
Google TV launched 3 years ago and we can’t even say that it struggled for success, it just didn’t have any. Ever since the launch of the Logitech Revue the platform has had one bad product after another, especially because the software wasn’t up to scratch, with poor performance, bad UX, sometimes not even compatible with basic apps, even from Google.
Over the years the software improved a little, but it never had any real feature-set to be compelling to users and developers. Not in the same way Android had, where both consumers and developers have been exponentially jumping aboard the platform.
Over time, Android evolved into a mature, beautiful OS which appeals to both casual users and power users alike, it now offers casual users a decent out-of-the-box experience and it allows tinkerers and hackers to do all sort of crazy stuff on their devices.
To make matters worse, Google TV was based on Honeycomb, the rushed tablet OS that did not even made it to the Android Open Source Project and was always laggy, filled with bugs and inconsistencies across the OS. A Jelly Bean update has been on the cards for Google TV for some time now but, that appears to be too little, too late and at this point might not even make that much of a difference.
These past few months Google and its partners have begun to distance themselves from the Google TV brand. For example, Sony’s latest Bravia TV stick was introduced as a device that “brings the full power of Google services to your TV.” Google services to your TV is not exactly the same as Google TV. Google even had a developer event called Android TV Developer Day instead of Google TV Developer Day. I can continue to provide you with examples but I think we all get the point. Google TV is all but dead as a brand and Google will expand Android’s reach into the living room.
So, if Google TV has such a bad reputation and Android’s is increasing every day, why hasn’t Google made the switch already? The answer is simple: features. As it stands today Android can’t function on a TV, it doesn’t have the necessary skill set to do it. TVs are not touch so the basic navigation can’t be the same as it is today, the resolution is the same as the high-end phones of today but the size is much bigger so the home screens and icon distribution can’t be the same either. Even the apps can’t be the same, it’s not like they can just function as a big tablet.
I don’t think it a coincidence that Android 4.4 KitKat is being advertised with the following tagline: “It’s our goal with Android KitKat to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody.”
When most people see that they think oh, Google is finally addressing watches but what I think is Google is addressing everything and when Android 4.4 is announces, probably this month, I think Google will have a lot of surprises, especially in the new device department. I think we’ll see Google come up with new hardware for the living room, like a new, better version of the Nexus Q, introduced as the first Android TV device running Android 4.4.
I think we’re also going to see a watch, a new Nexus 10, the Nexus 5, obviously and maybe even a new stick, much like the Chromecast but running pure Android.
Why so many devices? Google won’t be trying to take over the market with their own devices but they are actually showing the world what can be done with KitKat, they will show others OEM how to do things right. They will be the base for all Android devices in the future. Google already did this before with the Nexus 7, it became the standard to what a small Android tablet should be and since it was so cheap, a bad tablet just doesn’t have a chance, it had to be good or it just wouldn’t sell. I think Google intends to do this with other markets, mostly TV and watches.
We’re seeing a lot of new smartwatches lately, from Pebble to the Galaxy Gear with the Sony Smartwatch and the Motorola ACTV in the middle. They all have good intentions and some good ideas, but none of them is a complete product and that’s because Android is not ready for those type of devices. Android 4.3 is the first version to have a Notification Listener service, which is the most basic thing needed for a smartwatch.
I think Android 4.4 will be the version to make Android available for every kind of device, from your watch to your TV, from your fridge to your light switch. Android 4.4 will be the result of Google’s internal [email protected] project and I’m sure that 2014 is going to be a year with all sorts of crazy products. I can’t wait to see what Google and other companies come up with.
Google TV has a reputation of being bad while Android has the reputation of being easy to use, beautifully designed and expandable. Making the switch is the most logical move, but also Google is wise on waiting for the platform to be ready to attack other types of devices.