Documents obtained by The Verge show Google is about to take another try at the television market, with a set-top box called Android TV. The maker of the late, unlamented Google TV says “It’s all about finding and enjoying content with the least amount of friction.” It will be “cinematic, fun, fluid, and fast.”
Android TV may sound like a semantic difference — after all, Google TV was based on Android — but it’s something very different. Android TV is no longer a crazy attempt to turn your TV into a bigger, more powerful smartphone.
Android TV should look and feel much like the rest of the set-top boxes currently available, including the Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV, and the Roku lineup.
Google is keeping it simple, calling for developers to build extremely simple apps for a simple interface. The interface reportedly consists of scrolling “cards” that display movies, shows, apps, and games sitting on a shelf.
A remote control will use a four-way directional pad to scroll left and right through suggestions, and up and down through categories of content.
As is done on other set-top boxes, the content will be represented by a miniature movie poster, or book cover. Controllers will include Enter, Home, and Back buttons, and there will be optional game controllers available.
Google also wants Android TV to actively suggest content to the user. The ability to browse through content and apps will still be there, but Android TV will recommend things to you, even reminding you that you can resume watching content you previously had began watching on a tablet or smartphone.
Google documents stress access to content should be “simple and magical,” adding that it should never take more than three clicks or gestures to go from the home screen to new content.
The documentation The Verge obtained indicates Google is currently courting developers to create games and apps for the Android TV. Screenshots show apps that include Google’s own YouTube and Hangouts, and also include third-party apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and more.
There’s no indication where an “Android TV” product might leave Google’s Chromecast HDMI dongle. It’s likely the dongle will hang around, with developers having to build two versions of app, web-based for the Chromecast, app-based for Android TV.