Android TV Pegged for June Appearance

Android TV has appeared in tech industry rumors for years, but recent reports suggest the long-awaited technology actually may be making its way into the real world at last.

Google apparently plans to announce the launch of Android TV at its Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco later this month, according to GigaOm, which cited “multiple sources familiar with Google’s plans.”

What’s announced there will resemble Google TV — unveiled back in 2010 — in that it’s a platform TV and set-top box manufacturers will be able to use to offer new streaming services.

While Google TV was focused on combining existing pay-TV services with apps, Android TV reportedly will focus on online media services and Android-based games, at least initially.

Netflix and Hulu Plus

Featuring prominently in the new service will be “Pano,” a new interface that reportedly will allow users to browse through individual pieces of content on the home screen in card-like fashion. Traditionally, smart TVs require that users first launch an app and browse an apps catalog before they can play a title.

Netflix and Hulu Plus are among the services that will be available at launch, according to GigaOm. Hardware partners, meanwhile, could begin offering devices that run Android TV “in the coming months.”

Google was tight-lipped about its plans. “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation,” spokesperson Iska Hain told LinuxInsider.

‘An Update or Restart’

“The situation looks quite complicated,” Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, told LinuxInsider. “Wheels within wheels at Google.”

Still, “some picture emerges,” he added. “Android TV seems like an update or restart of Google’s content-delivery effort, wherein it swaps out an effort that flagged with one that has a better track record.

“I suspect that the development environment will be better, and that may attract some of the larger manufacturers and other ecosystem partners,” Kay predicted. “It looks like the company already has good content partnerships via Chromecast as well as some loyal users. It can convert these easily enough to a new platform.”

‘Google Embraces Risk’

Android TV “certainly shows Google’s character as an organization,” Brett Sappington, director of research for Parks Associates, told LinuxInsider.

“I don’t know of any other organization that would take three tries to get it right,” Sappington said. “Google embraces risk more than other organizations do.”

The challenge is getting the mix of user interaction and ease of use right, he added.

“New interfaces are always difficult because consumers always go back to what they know,” Sappington explained.

On the other hand, “Google has to do something like that in order to carve out its own niche in marketplace,” he concluded. “It has so many advantages, but I think that the new interface and how consumers take to it will be a key to its success.”

‘That Would Be Another Story’

There is clearly a growing market for streaming media devices, and “while the Google TV concept was a dud, Chromecast proved that Google can still compete in this market,” Greg Scoblete, editor at RealClearWorld and RealClearTechnology, told LinuxInsider.

“Without knowing the specifics of what Google will actually launch, it’s hard to say definitively how it will differ from Google TV,” Scoblete added, “but based on the published reports I’ve read, it appears it won’t connect to a cable/satellite box, and will have a radically new interface that makes it easier to find the content you’re looking for.

“These things, in and of themselves, won’t do much to distinguish Google from other competitors in this market,” he opined. “The ultimate differentiation will be in the form of content.”

If Google “just puts a shinier face on the same selection of apps that everyone else has, then it may sell well but won’t be truly disruptive — and this appears to be the route they’re traveling,” Scoblete concluded.

On the other hand, “if Google were to use its money to invest in unique content that other streaming boxes can’t offer,” he suggested, “that would be another story.”

Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered journalist by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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