Android TV is both a really powerful media consumption platform and a really mediocre one. It runs the full Android operating system, quickly giving it access to hundreds of APIs and libraries used in every aspect of media playback and gaming. It leverages the powerful voice search capabilities of Google to provide users answers about anything or just find the best app to use to watch that movie. If you can’t find what to watch, their recommendations system or Live Channels app should provide users with all the content they want. Plus, Google can make it easy for developers to port their games to Android TV because they already run great on a phone.
Unfortunately, this has not panned out perfectly. There are a variety of quirks with the layers placed on top of Android. The launcher has numerous issues, the operating system doesn’t have more powerful hardware support like USB webcams, app support is not great even with Google apps, and platform features like recommendations are not supported by every app. Netflix is one that stands out as working really bad on Android TV. If Netflix doesn’t work well on a media streamer, then that doesn’t give hope to its future success.
This is some of the background to Jared Newman of TechHive writing a post about his frustrations using the platform. Like other people, he wants to like it, and there’s a lot to like. However, there are small quirks that can make the experience unpleasant or frustrating. He later talked to lead product manager for Android TV Allen Huang (or Allen Chang) and wrote a second post about this discussion. It is a good look at how the platform is continuing to evolve, with some hints as to updates that are coming soon.
The interview goes fairly in-depth into some of the pain point of the platform as it stands. Huang does say at one point that the focus around Android 6.0 Marshmallow has been taking up developer’s time and that more app support will be coming after higher priority things are done.
The big things that Huang says Android TV is focusing on are Live Channels and recommendations. He even says that an update will come in a few weeks that should improve the ranking algorithm based on usage as well as start providing developers more feedback on how recommendations are being used. As for Live Channels, he believes its the platform’s biggest differentiator and will continue to be a big part of the platform.
The TV experience is different, both for users and developers, and Huang does want to make sure the experience is great. He stated that they’re working with Netflix to improve their app and continuing to think about how TV experiences should work for ads. Hopefully the fruition of this work will come to the platform soon. With the holiday season approaching, Google should really try to push this product to consumers quickly.
Even if sales are not particularly fantastic this quarter, Google is still thinking ahead. They have created their own IoT (Internet of Things) platform Brillo and device communication protocol Weave. With a static box like a TV or STB (set-top box), it becomes a great medium for these technologies to mesh with. Android TV is not working in isolation. They communicate with the Android teams, Google App teams, and IoT teams. The product is constantly going to be getting better, and hopefully Google sticks to their promises of more updates in the coming months and years. Android TV has great potential, but it is still in its infancy.