This weekend it became clear Google is working on an Android TV stick and plans to release it. Although it's not one that's going to be sold to consumers directly.
The reason is Google is making this Android TV stick for operators.
Google's preference continues to be operators
Google has made clear efforts to court operators over the last few years. So much that the company takes almost every opportunity to talk about how many operators support the platform. Google did this once again at IBC as well.
As for the new device, Google's head of Android TV, Shalini Govil-Pai confirmed the stick is a turnkey solution. In other words, it's being developed so that operators can quickly deploy and brand as their own.
For example, AT&T recently released its AT&T TV set-top box. This is a prime example of a customized and operator-branded Android TV device. In principle, AT&T could use Google's stick design and release its own AT&T TV stick in the future. The same is true for any operator looking to get more involved with Android TV.
Regardless of who takes Google up on the offer, the end result is likely to be an experience removed from what most Android TV users are familiar with. More to the point, it is unlikely to be a product you can buy, or use without paying for operator services.
No word on a direct-to-consumer Google Android TV product
One of the questions posed to Govil-Pai in a separate interview at IBC was Android TV's operator and direct-to-consumer strategy. The question was in respect of whether Google is "considering direct-to-consumer devices." The answer pointed to Google's "two tiers" – operator and retail.
While "retail" might suggest the company plans to release first-party products, especially in light of the company's Made by Google division, Govil-Pai was quick to explain by pointing to Google's "partners." Specifically, Govil-Pai made reference to TV makers highlighting they are its retail strategy.
Based on the comments, it appears Google has no intention to release first-party Android TV products. Stick or otherwise, now or in the future. Instead, the Android TV division seems happy to continue working on hardware that suits operators and retail partners. Leaving the release and selling of hardware to them.
While this approach might appeal to Google, the absence of a Google-made Android TV stick will continue to put Android TV at a disadvantage compared to Fire TV and Roku OS.
For one thing, it will continue to limit consumer awareness of the Android TV platform as a product in itself. For example, while people will continue to buy a Fire TV or Roku TV stick, when it comes to Android TV they'll end up buying an AT&T TV or Comcast Stick.