So what happened to the Pixel Player? This week Google held an event where it showcased its forward-thinking hardware portfolio and there was two clear absentees from the gathering, a new smartwatch and a new Android TV device. The future of both Android Wear and Android TV have been the subject of much speculation of late, and in no small part due to many assuming Google does not support the two Android-related platforms as much as it could or should. Whether or not that is the case, when it comes to its own ‘made by Google’ line it is starting to seem as though Android TV is not going to be included. At least not in the short-term.
During this week’s ‘October 4’ event Google did make a number of announcements relating to the home and in particular to its ‘Google Home’ brand and the Google Assistant. However, there was no real mention of Android TV. Yes, Google did announce shortly before the event that Google Assistant was finally arriving on Android TV (by way of the NVIDIA SHIELD), but even the the timing of that announcement (so close to, yet not part of the October 4 event) was telling. It was not being made as part of the rest of the announcements and again - likely because Google does not view the platform as part of its made by Google ambitions. Which certainly does add fuel to the suggestion from some that Google is less interested in the platform as those who use the platform might hope. Although that might not strictly be the case.
Yes, Google did announce two new phones, two new Google Home units, a new Chromebook, a new camera, and even a new pair of headphones - pretty much everything other than an Android TV device (and a smartwatch). But these two platforms are ones which have up until now been catered to by third-party companies. Yes, Android TV (and in particular the box market) has not been catered to as much as it could have been, but there are still options out there. Likewise, Wear has seen a fairly decent amount of third-party manufacturer support, so it could be argued that Google is more keen to leave those two platforms to develop naturally before it adds its own Pixel-branded solutions. While some could rightfully argue that might not be the best way to promote an emerging ecosystem, it could be the way Google has chosen to approach the development of the platform. See if it takes off naturally enough before spending its own hardware resources on releasing its own product and instead relying on some of its closest partners to bring to market related products with Google’s endorsement. This is what has been the case this year already in Android Wear with the release of two new smartwatches from LG backed by Google - and what has been the case in Android TV land with both the Nexus Player and the Mi Box.
Which does mean that a new (and soon-ish) Pixel Player may still be on the cards - although it seems almost guaranteed now that it will not arrive branded as Pixel. Not too long ago a report came through suggesting that (based on unnamed sources) Google was working with an unnamed partner to bring to market a new Android TV device. With the further suggestion that this device would arrive in the Fall. Which of course at the time did lead to the assumption that it may get announced at the October 4 event. However, that would have only been the case if this player was being released as a ‘made by Google’ product, and if that had been the case then it would have come in the form of a Pixel Player. If the original information is correct and a third-party company is heavily involved in the creation of a new Google-backed Android TV box, then it seems likely that it will be released as a box belonging to that company - as ASUS did with the original Nexus Player and Xiaomi did with the Mi Box - and again to draw on the similarities with Android Wear, as LG did with the LG Watch Sport and Watch Style. This would also mean that the device could never have been announced at the October 4 as that event was about what Google makes... or at least what is made by Google. Any device coming through now branded by the manufacturer will now come through as part of a separate product launch, irrespective of whether Google backs the device or not. This is just the way that Google is now approaching its hardware future with a clear distinction between its own main portfolio and devices made by others. So to answer the what happened to the Pixel Player question - it seems we are not getting one. At least not this year and at least not in the form of a Pixel-branded product. What still might be coming though, is another Android TV device, backed by Google, and following in the tradition of the Nexus Player and the Mi Box. So now the question(s) should be what will it be called and when will it arrive?