I remember my first bought-from-new television. I still have it; no, let me redefine. It’s still my only television, a 28-inch Sony Bravia unit. 1080p, LCD, stereo, remote control… It’s six years old and starting to show its age; it occasionally decides not to show a picture properly. I am holding out until it breaks and I can then invest in a bigger TV with with Android TV. Oh and something with more than a couple of HDMI ports too. And given the range of televisions that have been announced at CES that are going to come with Android TV, I’ve something to look forward to when my old Sony gives that little blue puff of busted electronics and doesn’t come to life ever again. Sony, Sharp and Philips are all bringing TVs to the American market inside a few months that will include Android TV; I’ll probably have to wait a bit longer until they arrive in the United Kingdom. These TVs with built-in Android TV join the Nexus Player, which was released in November 2014.
I ought to spend a moment explaining what’s so great about Android TV. It’s an evolution of Android for the big screen, as Android Wear is an evolution of Android for the smaller screen. Android TV is a smart TV platform based on Android 5.0 Lollipop; it’s designed to create an interactive television and entertainment system and may be build into both TVs and set-up boxes. It’ll include games too and there’s scope for manufacturers to build powerful Android TV gaming units (anybody say “Nvidia Tegra X1” yet?). It has access to the Google Play Store in order to download optimized Android applications, including streaming services such as Netflix. Users can either use a game controller, remote control, their voice or the Android TV application to control the unit. Oh, and the Android TV units contain a built-in Chromecast unit (so if you have an Android TV unit you don’t need a Chromecast too).
From Google’s perspective, Android TV is a way of selling Google’s services and infrastructure to customers. We’re going to have access to the Google Play Store, which means it’s a familiar way to get applications, music, TV shows and movies onto any and all of our devices. Where Google isn’t the main provider – taking Netflix as an example – it still acts as a go-between. And Google are being very particular about the Android TV interface and applications. This makes sense: if Android TV is to gain traction, it needs to be easy (read: non-geeky) to operate and this means that devices, applications and services need to have a consistent interface. Currently, those manufacturers supporting Android TV can use this as a differentiator between their sets and competitor products. It might not be too long before there are third party Android TV set up boxes being made available. It’s a less elegant solution, but it’s time for Google and the product manufacturers to market Android TV. And it’s time for us to start buying.