Google will address Android TV fragmentation by introducing a 'Reference +' platform. In addition, the company will launch a new, more visual Google Play store for TV that makes it easier to subscribe to streaming services.
Android TV updates at I/O 2019
Android TV did not get stage time at Google I/O 2019 but the company still had a few updates to share in a later session.
Android TV now has over 5000 apps, up from 3000 last year, and content from over 1000 streaming content providers, the company said, adding that the platform is now being used by over 140 pay TV operators and 6 out of the top 10 smart TV manufacturers.
Google is planning yet another redesign of Android TV but that topic was not discussed at the event. Instead, the company focused on an overhaul of the Google Play store for TV coming "later this year". The new store will be more visually appealing and will also let users subscribe to new streaming services with a "one-click" process.
In this sense, Google is mirroring what Amazon is doing with its channels store, serving as a middle-man to make it easier to sign up to new services without having to manually input payment details. Apple is planning something similar for its revamped 'TV' app.
Google to address fragmentation
If you have experience with TVs and streaming boxes powered by Android TV, you probably know that performance is often subpar and firmware/software bugs are common. In addition, major updates often take more than a year to arrive.
Nvidia is using its own chips while manufacturers such as Sony, TCL and Philips are typically using SoCs from MediaTek or Realtek.
Google wants to address Android TV fragmentation and to do so it has created a reference design, which is described as a "Google + system-on-chip reference design that reduces variability in devices" and makes it "easier to develop for Android TV". The reference design will also be Google Assistant ready.
- "Reference + devices are also Google Assistant ready. This ensures a consistent performance and behavior across devices from multiple manufacturers," said Anwar Haneed, Product Lead, Android TV. "Today we are working with 10 TV manufacturers and we will be working with more over time"
On the subject of Google Assistant, the company said that "soon Assistant will know what is on live TV and allow you to use your voice to instantly switch over to live content that you have playing on your TV". Philo is one of the first partners.
Anwar Haneed also commented briefly on the controversy of ads and featured content on the Android TV home screen, saying that it is "important for us to create opportunities for our ecosystem partners". He added that users can "expect to see more coming out soon in this space."
You can watch Google's full Android TV session from I/O 2019 in this video.