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Cable Technology Feature Article

June 03, 2014

Google TV Set for a Rebirth as Android TV

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Despite the success of the Chromecast streaming video dongle, rumor has it that Google (News - Alert) is planning to rename Google TV to give it another push.

This time around, according to GigaOm, it will be called Android TV, and will be a more robust offering than Chromecast. Initially, will come in set-top format, like Roku, Apple (News - Alert) TV and Amazon Fire TV (the market’s getting crowded, folks)—but the sources said that ultimately, it wants to be embedded in smart TVs as the middleware for connected television, just like it has already done to date with Google TV.

In addition to running a variety of over-the-top services and the ability to "cast" content with an Android smartphone or tablet to the big screen, Android TV will also have a gaming capability, sources said, which is in line with Amazon Fire TV and firmly in Google’s wheelhouse given the amount of real estate devoted to gaming in the Google Play store. Chromecast doesn’t offer gaming options, so this could be good differentiation point in the overall video line of gadgets.

It will also reportedly feature something called Pano, which is a user interface and content discovery approach that offers “cards” that recommend individual pieces of content from the home screen, and also allows users to browse movies, TV shows and other types of media in a personalized fashion.

Google originally kicked off Google TV in 2007 but started the project in earnest in 2010. Working with LG, Asus, Sony, Netgear (News - Alert), VIZIO and others, Google’s original vision was to bring its search capabilities to bear to allow users to search for TV shows and movies, then choose from a range of options that included turning into broadcast, pay-TV linear programming or video on demand, subscription OTT options like Netflix, electronic sell-through purveyors and fare from the general Web, including YouTube (News - Alert).

Google TV has been only a middling success thus far—as an early innovator in the market, it originally got bogged down with a lack of consumer understanding and therefor uptake, as well as fears over content security and piracy. And, pay-TV operators generally don’t want to work with Google because of the fact that it offers cannibalizing alternatives to their content.

Largely discontinued as an initiative last year after CES (News - Alert), limited Google TV options are still available from manufacturers as both “buddy boxes” that hook onto an existing STB (like the VIZIO Co-Star) or in embedded format with certain LG smart TVs.

The rebranded offerings could be unveiled as early as Google I/O, which takes place on June 25 and 26.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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