While smartphones and tablets have exploded, the smart TV concept has struggled. Sure, people are buying sets, but those extra features and apps have been overlooked thanks to niche stores, complex menus and other customer experience issues. With an upcoming war against Apple and Microsoft, Google is changing its own game.
Logical Device Extensions
Somehow the old TV set has missed out in the mobile revolution. Despite being made by the same firms, like Samsung and Sony who also make those pretty smartphones and tablets, "smart" on a TV is nowhere near the same as "smart" on a phone. Part of this is because Google TV is stuck on an old version of Android, and because Google TV has never really sold.
Many smart TV ecosystems are weak, with poor user experiences that are clunky and slow, with fragmentation by vendor meaning experiences vary from home to home. What if there were some operating system that, you know, could help those big-screens work better with your small ones, and use more of those sparkling apps.
With the mega-resolutions of today's smartphones and tablets, and Google's decision to retire Google TV in favor of Android TV (likely running KitKat or a later version), that could be where we're headed. Or, is this just a rebranding exercise? With Apple lurking on the horizon, we doubt it.
Of course, new set upgrades mean a big pain for anyone who's just invested in a current "smart" set, only to find they're just about to get a whole lot smarter. But with the move to dongle devices like Google's Chromecast TV, the future may lie outside the actual set. A home of multiple inexpensive, interconnected, sets around the home would be a great vision for Android, while anything else probably plays more into Apple's hands. As for Microsoft, it has its own TV ambitions with the Xbox One console, which takes a rather different approach.
Apple or Android Be Thy TV's Name
Chromecast was Google's budget answer to the Apple TV, a 'hobby' device that has sold around 15 million units as Apple dips its toes in the TV market. If the fruit-bearing company really does have ambitions for big-screen displays, then users might expect their iOS devices and apps to stream across to the big screen, rather than using AirPlay or Apple TV's own limited range of TV and movie focused service apps.
Android TV could that this a step further by truly integrating the on-screen experience with that of your smart devices, and other sets around the home, with cross-streaming, co-operative gaming and remote recording, but that's a long way from the simple service provided by Chromecast. Even the the Chrome name adds confusion, suggesting its belongs more to Google's desktop experience than it does the mobile side.
However, with ideas running out fast in smartphone land (the Galaxy Round anyone?), Android makers could turn to their TV set production lines to find the next strand of customer loyalty or level of engagement. Google is already hosting Android TV developer events and the juggernaut success of the Android OS could set up a new battle against Apple-powered TV sets.
Its a compelling idea, yet, as Samsung's (and other brands') smart TV sets already have their own TV and social media, apps, custom remotes with keyboards and other features, would this require yet another change? Or can Google and partners manage an elegant change over? Such things in TV sales are rare as the makers desperately push consumers to buy the next generation of set.