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Android TV: will it be worth owning, or just a rental?

Rumors are Google will announce Android TV at the Google I/O devcon. The timing of a TV platform announcement would make sense, hot on the heels of the VP8 open source codec announcement.

Expected partners are Sony and Intel, and possibly Logitech. Intel is vocal that this will be a keeper: "The revolution we’re about to go through is the biggest single change in television since it went color" (Google and Intel in web TV launch). But, Intel may be optimistic out of the necessity. They are hoping to carve out their spot in the digital living room. Sony is expected to embed the system into their TV sets, at least initially.

OTOH, maybe it's just a rental: Google Wave and Nexus One haven't exactly set the world on fire. Particularly interesting are lessons learned from Nexus One. Google attempted to upend the existing business model with mobile netops and their onerous handset contracts. However, selling an unlocked phone at full price apparently wasn't that revolutionary.

With Android TV, Google may wisely go back to more of a Microsoft model. Let the hardware vendors deal with manufacturing, distribution, returns and tech support. Much like Boxee working with D-Link to build a Boxee STB, or VUDU changing emphasis from a STB to embedded systems, Google's value add is in the software.

I've been following the bits of Android development in the TV space, limited as it has been. The major hardware development has been the MIPS / Sigma Designs Android System-on-a-Chip (SoC) design. It has been incorporated into a few Android STBs (MIPS-based Android set-tops debut). SoC announcements generally aren't that exciting, but are a critical part in delivering a new STB. Unclear if the early-adopter MIPS / Sigma SoC is part of the upcoming Google I/O announcement.

My favorite Android TV announcement has been from the Swedish company People of Lava. If only because of their name. A name we can appreciate in Hawaii. They announced an embedded Android TV set. No, it does not include a lava lamp, they missed the marketing opportunity there. (World's First Android TV Comes from Sweden)

Stay tuned for the potential Android TV announcement here: Where to Watch Google I/O Online

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Comment by Kevin Folan on May 24, 2010 at 7:42am
At first glance, this looks a lot like the old Microsoft WebTV. I was surprised to see just how keyboard-intensive the demo was. Is the world _now_ ready to start typing away at their TV? Check out for a bit of deja vu. Google TV modern updates include support for Over-the-Top video playback, Flash player (clear shot against Apple TV), and access to the "whole internet" (another jab at Apple TV). For service-provider content, the Google TV STB daisy-chains in via HDMI, or the STB hardware is embedded into a TV or Blu-Ray player. Brian, it is clear in the announcement they took advantage of the current industry mood to differentiate (define?) themselves. Google TV is open, Apple TV is not. Seemed to be a general theme of the Google I/O announcements. Cameron, the voice-integration feature was an example of what could make Google TV successful. By providing the hooks into Google (or other) web-based services, this platform enables features that haven't been thought of yet. Another cool demo was the on-the-fly translation of Close-Captioning text to whatever language Google Translate supports. That said, selling a STB direct to customers is a difficult business, and there haven't been many success stories. Roku did well by providing a good value (Netflix player for $100), and I would say Apple TV is a success by virtue of the fact it is still in around. Google TV will have a powerful SoC (Atom + 3D GPU) and somebody will have to cover the cost. Only one service provider partner was announced, Dish, and no mention of whether Dish would subsidize the cost via monthly subscriber fees. DBS is not practical for most people in Hawaii, anyways. For me, I seem to have a lot of STBs so I am sure I will end up with one and probably the Boxee box as well (that one just b/c it looks cool). You can cast your vote at
Will You Buy a Google TV?

Comment by Cameron Souza on May 21, 2010 at 10:00pm
I think its worth owning. I like the idea of using my phone as a remote with voice control. I wonder if it will compel Apple to reinvent Apple TV so they can one-up Google.


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