Android TV updates announced at Google I/O
Android TV - the centre of your connected world?
The opening keynote speech at Google’s annual I/O event concentrated on the flagship search engine and Android O/S, along with the crowd-pleasing Pixel 3a announcements. Although there was no immediate mention of any Android TV developments, some news of these filtered out at a slightly more low key presentation.Among the updates Google plans to introduce are the ability to use Google Assistant to navigate live TV, a redesign of the Google Play Store and the ability to subscribe and pay for developer services from within Android TV. In addition, faster updates could be on the way too.
It’s clear that Google sees the largest screen in most people’s homes - i.e. the television, and, let's face it those screens are only getting bigger - as the ideal platform from which to use their software to control smart devices, communication and entertainment. And they presented evidence to show that people still spend twice as much time per day watching TV as they do on their smartphones. Thus, they plan to use Android TV to bring TV, movies, games and music altogether in one place.
With that in mind, they have been reaching out to various industry partners in order to continue development of their TV platform in the best way possible and have now marshalled over 1000 streaming content providers and offer more than 5000 apps for Android TV through the Google Store.
In addition, Google has 6 of the top 10 smart TV OEMS using the Android TV Platform, including Sony and Philips, and they also provide the O/S in Operator Mode to 140 Pay TV vendors who use it as a foundation upon which to deliver their own services.
Pushing Google Assistant beyond just controlling streaming services, a future feature will be the ability for the Assistant to use voice commands to switch to and navigate traditional live TV. This requires the multichannel video programming distributors (i.e traditional cable and satellite Pay TV vendors) to provide the details of their Electronic Programme Guide, and while only a few minor providers are onboard, Google is planning more hookups.
As the media and app ecosystem for Android TV becomes ever more populated with content, Google and their partners are keen that the search-discovery-browse experience is a useful and enjoyable one. Therefore, a redesign of the Google Play Store on Android TV is coming. This will help curate the media and apps and present them in a more engaging fashion.
For more general TV searching, the latest use of channels to determine what content is available by presenting options in rows, including what-to-watch-next and live video previews, is proving popular with a 70% increase in watch time and 78% increase in views. This approach is becoming fairly standard, with Netflix and Amazon Prime having similar layouts. Android TV will remember where you stopped watching your content and restart at that point later, and it will do this across devices. So, if you paused content on your TV, you can continue on your phone.
Once you have discovered an app or service, you will no longer have to leave Android TV to subscribe or sign up to the services the app has to offer. Instead, Google has folded billing into the platform along with the ability to use PIN numbers instead of passwords, so the entire payment process is far more streamlined.
Recognising that one of the strengths of Android TV, i.e its ability to be used across a range of devices (smart TVs, streaming boxes, etc), can also become a weakness - fragmentation across devices can prove to be a challenge for developers - so Google has designed the Reference + programme.
This is essentially a software and hardware template involving Google plus a system-on-a-chip reference design which will ensure systems developed around the Android TV platform are Google Assistant ready and demonstrate consistent behaviour and performance across a range of devices from multiple manufacturers. Google are using this approach with 10 TV manufacturers with the promise of more to come.
Finally, updating Android TV could become faster and easier. Android Oreo provided the ability to just have the latest features downloaded rather than waiting for the next full iteration of the operating system, so getting hold of the latest features will be much less frustrating - providing you are running Oreo or higher. And according to Google’s own figures, over 60% of Android TV-enabled devices will be doing just that by the end of 2019.
Google is definitely placing the needs of their development and content partners quite high on their agenda by making sure that the Android TV platform is easy to develop for and commercial opportunities are also available. This may explain how recent Android TV updates have resulted in some unexpected and prominently featured content. However, if developers don’t find the platform easy to create for with attractive commercial opportunities, they’ll ignore it and the Android TV fruit could well wither on the vine.
No time frame was specified for the rollout of these new features other than "expect to see more coming out soon."
Source: Google I/O 2019, www.flatpanelshd.com
Image Source: Google I/O
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