Google has teamed up with JBL to bring Android TV to a new form factor through the release of the JBL LINK BAR. While there are already a number of speakers available -- including ones from JBL - which make use of Google Assistant for smart feature enabling, the JBL LINK BAR takes things to the next level by not only including Google Assistant support, but also Android TV. It is, in effect, an Android TV speaker. What’s more, Google states the JBL LINK BAR is only the “first in a series of hybrid devices” set for release. Clearly indicating the speaker form is going to be one of the next major design shifts for Android TV.
The LINK BAR is actually a soundbar and therefore is already somewhat designed for use with products like a TV, with the difference being this soundbar is designed to assimilate the stance of an Android TV box as well. Furthermore, with Google Assistant wired-in, the Assistant is already synced with Android TV, offering users out-of-the-box support for Android TV voice control. In this instance, it is also worth noting Google Assistant functionality is not dependent on Android TV (as is the case with the NVIDIA SHIELD and other current Android TV solutions) and therefore users can still make full use of Google Assistant -- as they would with any other smart speaker -- regardless of whether the TV is in use, or even on.
JBL first announced the LINK line last August as part of the company’s IFA announcements and the LINK BAR marks the latest addition to that product family. The common thread with the LINK series is that all of its products are designed with Google Assistant support included, and the LINK BAR evidently continues that trend while also now bundling in Android TV support for good measure. Interestingly, when the LINK Series was announced, it was primarily made up of normal smart speaker products with no clear-cut soundbar solution announced. Something that is not usually the case with JBL who typically offers soundbar options with most of its series-related product lines. Now, of course, it seems there was always a plan to release a LINK-branded soundbar with the two companies deciding to launch the product to coincide with Google's I/O developer conference which takes place this week. At present, Google and JBL have yet to confirm pricing for the LINK BAR, or exact availability other than stating it will become available during the fall.