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Google Deja Vu: Android Returns To TV

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. – After an aborted attempt behind Google TV several years ago, the mobile device and search engine giant resurfaced with a new plan for Android TV.

At Google’s recent I/O developers’ conference, the company leveraged its ubiquitous computer operating system for big screens and offered an all-in-one user-friendly interface that goes above and beyond the inexpensive Chromecast HDMI streaming stick that streams content from other linked devices.

Google made clear that Android TV is not a new platform, but one that refines the well-known Android OS especially with TV use.

Like the Google TV before it, Android TV is a platform that will be applied to a range of devices, including smart TVs, set-top boxes and video game consoles.

A big element of the system will be the ability to play video games; a similar focus was used by Amazon on creating its recently launched Fire TV media player.

When it arrives – there was no word on the exact release date – the Android TV platform will leverage a four-way directional remote control. But the system also will be controllable from a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets and even video game controllers.

Developers will have the ability to program peripherals to work with the platform, including its Google voice search capability. The most common interface will be a remote control that accepts voice commands, but Google envisions developers programming voice search into phones and game controllers as well.

It will offer users the ability to easily switch between streaming apps, downloaded movies and video games from the Google Play store.

Google said that apps designed specifically for Android TV will begin to appear this fall.

Being the king of Internet search engines, Google is also giving Android TV the ability to leverage Google search to quickly and easily find specific programs to watch from multiple providers and sources based on wide ranging and specific variables beyond simple favorite actors or genres.

Google said video games will play a big part of the system, allowing multiplayer action and supporting use of a variety of gaming controllers.

Google’s announcement said Sony (a former partner on Google TV), Sharp, Philips and China-based TP Vision plan to utilize the new system for TVs, while Asus and Razer were listed as participants on the set-top box side. No mention was made of Logitech, which invested heavily in developing the first Google TV set-top streaming box that was eventually dropped for being ahead of its time, as Logitech explained at the time.

A similar assessment of the aborted Google TV system was made by Sony Electronics U.S. president Mike Fasulo during remarks at an Ultra HD panel discussion during last month’s CE Week in New York.

Android TV will seek to improve on the old Google TV by playing up all of the new entertainment options available to users. At the time Google TV was launched many of the more popular streaming services were just coming view.

But where Google TV appeared to among just a handful of competitors, the Android TV platform will have to vie with a slew of new and established players, including Amazon, Roku, Apple and more sophisticated built-in smart-TV platforms from CE manufacturers, no less than as Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba, etc.