While there has been much discussion about Apple TV and its impact on the home entertainment market, Google has been quietly building a digital eco-system that already has game-changing potential. Building upon the success of the Android operating system, Google has developed a Smart TV platform that succeeds where others have failed in the past. Android TV goes beyond the basics of streaming movies and videos. It is a robust multi-media platform, that seamlessly integrates with mobile and other connected devices to create an interactive television experience. Here’s what makes Android TV different than the Smart TV platforms of the past.
A Usable Interface
The first thing you’ll notice about the Android TV OS is how quickly the interface responds. Clicking the home button on the remote immediately loads the available applications. There’s no more waiting for your TV to connect to the network or getting a cup of coffee while Netflix decides to load. The interface provides instantaneous feedback and allows you to quickly navigate the available content. Additionally, the interface features a voice-activated search that displays results from multiple categories.
The most critical part of an operating systems success are the applications available on the platform. Here’s where Google really delivers. In addition to the standard set of Smart TV applications (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and YouTube), Android TV features the Google Play Store. The Google Play Store is a mature marketplace that features, thousands of movies and TV shows, millions of songs, including a streaming music service and an impressive amount of games that have been converted to the platform. It’s this combination of content and functionality that makes Android TV relevant.
Historically, televisions and gaming platforms have been two separate systems. Android TV seeks to blur that line. Much in the same way that smartphones have become mobile gaming platforms, Android TV has the potential to eliminate the need for home gaming consoles. From richly immersive games such as Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic to old school classics like PacMan, Android TV provides over 130 games at a substantially lower cost than typical gaming platforms. As the platform matures and televisions become more powerful, Android TV will become a contender in online and offline gaming.
One of things that makes Android TV a true digital hub, is its ability to connect to other devices. With the Android TV app on your mobile device, your smartphone can act as a remote control. Or even better, you can project content directly from your mobile device to your TV through Google Cast. Android TV also supports bluetooth enabled gaming controllers like the Sony Dual Shock 4 to provide a more robust gaming experience. However, if you don’t have an external gaming controller, there are still many games you can play using the TV remote as your controller. It’s actually pretty amazing, how little Android TV cares about which device you’re using to control a game. It even supports the ability to use your mobile device as a game controller. One application that benefits from this capability is a game called BombSquad. BombSquad is party game that allows up to 8 players to connect from a variety of devices to compete in a series of mini-games including Capture-the-Flag, King-of-the-Hill, Bomber-Hockey and Elimination through a local/multiplayer mode. Chances are, you don’t have 8 gaming remotes lying around, buy you may have 8 mobile devices. Android TV’s device integration allows everyone to connect using their own device and participate in a group gaming experience like no other.
Since its launch in 2014, Android TV has quickly gained support from major hardware manufacturers such as Sony and LG Electronics, as well as a host of new manufacturers announced at the 2016 CES, including RCA, Hi-Sense and Bang & Olufsen. This adoption represents a shift from independent, device-based interfaces to a unified, device-agnostic platform. One only needs to look back on the history of PC’s and SmartPhones to recognize the trend. Which makes a lot of sense in a world where the supporting digital eco-system is more important than the actual interface. Without apps and content, there’s no reason for users to interact with a service.
As the new breed of Smart TVs emerge, they will significantly shape the way we live. Android TV is already showing that promise today, and as devices become more powerful the impact will be even greater. As we think about strategies multi-platform experiences, we need to make sure we include Smart TVs into our everyday thinking.