Android TV: What To Expect From Google I/O 2017

May 12, 2017 - Written By John Anon

Google I/O was actually the place where Android TV was first introduced. Although the platform did not properly become available until much later in the year when the Nexus Player hit the market. Either way, Google I/O was essentially where it all begun, and at the time there was much hype around the platform with many wondering how Android TV might grow in the next couple of years.

Now we are three years on and Google I/O is once again just around the corner. So what should we expect from this year’s event? In truth, probably not much. Three years since that first unveiling and the Android TV market is still a scarce one. Yes, there are quite a few TV sets now available that are powered by Android TV, but the set-top box market is very limited. The Nexus Player is gone, as is the Razer Forge. All there is now is the NVIDIA SHIELD and the Mi Box, which in most respects, represent the top and bottom ends of the Android TV box market.

In fact, looking back to last year’s Google I/O and even then there was little to actually sink your teeth into when it came to Android TV. Yes, Google did confirm that more Android TV apps & hardware options were coming – which is likely to be exactly one of the announcements that will take place this year as well – and yes, the Mi Box did debut at last year’s Google I/O event. But that was largely the extent to the Android TV presence at the event. And in reality, this year’s event is likely to be even less exciting for Android TV owners. It seems all but guaranteed there will be no new hardware on offer. While the Mi Box did debut at the event last year, it is very unlikely that a new box will debut at this one. If Google is planning a follow-up device to the Nexus Player, then they will likely hold that thought until later in the fall, when it releases the second wave of it’s ‘made by Google’ hardware. So a good wager would be there is no hardware announcements coming this year. Certainly no ‘Pixel Player.’

Which largely only leaves us with the software. And this is somewhat hard to make any educated (or otherwise) guesses on. Android O is certainly going to be the talk of the town at Google I/O 2017 and it is likely that between now and then the second developer preview will become available. However, Android O is already available for the Nexus Player and the so-far benefits to Android TV from Android O, largely remain to be seen. Likewise, this is still someway off being a finished Android version, so what will likely be announced at Google I/O (in terms of Android O) will probably not be that Android TV-focused.

Now, that is not to say that the event will be completely void of Android TV, as Google does have a specific session taking place on Android TV during the event. The session goes live on May 17 at 6PM and is titled ‘What’s New for Android TV.’ However, this is a ‘what’s new’ for developers. Likewise, the description for the session is fairly telling. It states that developers will learn about “recent system enhancements that help users quickly access relevant content” – with the use of recent suggesting this is referring to already available enhancements. As well as “an overview of new APIs for developers to build apps for Android TV” – which although is something that will benefit Android TV folk in the long term, will not be much good at the point of discussion. The only glimmer of hope is that the session description ends with “and also upcoming platform enhancements.” Which of course, highly suggests ‘new stuff’. Although, whether that translates to ‘good stuff,’ remains to be seen at the moment.

If anything, the one, and if it happens, biggest Android TV announcement that might come from Google I/O 2017 is the greater rolling out and availability of the Google Assistant. This was something that was announced by Google back in January. Although, it has not amounted to much since then. It was originally said to be coming ‘early in the year’ although few would have probably expected it to be this late in the year. Either way, the chances are good that Google Assistant on Android TV will make it an appearance at this year’s event. As this really does seem to be the biggest thing happening in the Android TV world at the moment. In realty though, that will not be a new announcement, just an updating of the previous one from January.