For years now companies have been claiming to that they make the perfect set-top box, with Amazon being the most recent to do so with its FireTV. Notably missing from this arm’s race, however, has been Google. The company was one of the first to offer a set-top box OS with Google TV, but the idea quickly failed and was never widely adopted. Over the past year, reports have started to emerge claiming that Google is plaining a reentrance into the set-top box market with an Android-powered set-top box. The Verge has now published an extensive report on Android TV, with screenshots of the actual interface and much more.
The report, which cites internal Google documents, claims that the idea is far along in development with major app providers already building for the platform as we speak. While Google TV was also based off of Android, this new revision is entirely rebuilt and is something very different. “Android TV is an entertainment interface, not a computing platform,” writes Google. “It’s all about finding and enjoying content with the least amount of friction.” It will be “cinematic, fun, fluid, and fast.”
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The original Google TV interface was often degraded for being far too complicated to easily navigate through. Android TV, however, will be much less ambitious and far easier to understand, according to the report. The interface will be centered around “cards” that represent movies, shows, apps, and games sitting on a shelf. The remote control will have a four-way directional pad that will let you scroll left and right through different suggestions, or up and down through different categories. Each item will essentially be a miniature movie poster or book cover, and you’ll pick the one you want. The remote will be very simple with Enter, Home, and Back buttons, in additional to the directional pad. There will also be “optional” game controllers, much like with the FireTV.
Android TV will also incorporate voice input – like Amazon’s offering – and notifications. Although, Google is reportedly encouraging developers to only use notifications in very limited cases as to not interrupt the viewing experience for the user.
Google’s goal for Android TV is not to have you scroll through a plethora of apps and games, although that will be an option, but rather to proactively recommend things for you to watch right on the home screen. Google doesn’t want you to go directly into an app, like Netflix, to find what you want. It wants to analyze your watching history and show you content directly on the home screen. There will also be the ability to seamlessly resume content that you were watching on a mobile device, as soon as you turn on your TV.
“Access to content should be simple and magical,” a Google document touts, while adding that it should never take more than three clicks or gestures from the home screen to start watching a piece of content. Even though Google’s primary focus with Android TV will be automatically finding things for you to watch, you will still have the ability to search for content, as well. There will be universal search, in addition to searching within individual apps – both via voice and text.
As far as the app selection goes, The Verge says that it has obtained screenshots showing both official Google apps, such as Play Movies, YouTube, and Hangouts, as well as third-party apps like Vevo, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and games.
There’s no word on when Google plans to unveil Android TV to the public, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see it shown off at this year’s Google I/O developer conference. No matter what, Google certainly appears to have a new simple-minded attitude about Android TV, and that’s certainly something to get excited about. “Android TV is Android, optimized for the living room consumption experience on a TV screen,” the company says.