Sometime around 2011-2012 my childhood enthusiasm and anticipation for Christmas morning had made its triumphant return… only it was no longer actually for Christmas. Google had captured that spirit with its annual Google I/O developer’s conference. Adult me would wait and watch in wonder at all the goodies announced. Sure, most major announcements would leak in advance, but every once in a while Google would sneak in a few surprises (enough to keep you coming back). Some years blow you away and some years are a disappointment. However, much like Christmases of yesteryear, the best part of Google I/O is dreaming of the things you hope will be announced. This is our Google I/O 2016 Wish List.
#1. Refreshed Nexus Player
The Nexus Player was released on October 15th, 2014. To be honest, it was already playing catch-up with its competitors like the Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Apple TV. It was also practically outdated out of the box. However, it came with a decent price point and really did its job as a Nexus device in building out Android TV and laying a foundation. Last September, Google announced a slew of new Nexus devices and even a refreshed Chromecast but the Nexus Player was left high and dry. Every major TV box has seen an update except for the Nexus Player. After some fire sales at the end of last year, they are now almost impossible to find (even fetching $150 on eBay)!
Besides the slow demise of the current Nexus Player, there are no other clues indicating another one is inbound. There were a few rumors that ASUS was working on an update before the last Nexus announcement, but they all kind of fizzled out after it was a no show. The lone bright spot is that the Nexus Player is still being constantly updated as a developer device and Android TV is alive and well. Despite the lack of evidence, a refreshed Nexus Player is number one on my wish list.
So what would a refreshed Nexus Player 2016 look like? Well, that is a difficult question. Because I am already dreaming, I would be tempted to continue said dream and say it would look a lot like a SHIELD TV at a sub $100 price point. However, I am already on thin ice so I will just list some modest ways that the Nexus Player could improve:
- Gigabit Ethernet Port
- Multiple FULL 3.0 USB Ports
- More Powerful CPU & GPU – Also preferably ARM
- More RAM – Not hard to beat 1 GB
- More Storage – Again, not hard to beat 8GB, however this is less important now that you can mount storage!
- SD Card Slot – This would make the last bullet less important…
- Lower Price Around $79 – I think the current Nexus Player definitely saw a sales boost when price dropped this low. I think it is a sweet spot, however I wouldn’t be upset if it was as high as $149 as long as there’s a good reason.
- Ability To Control System Volume With Remote – Please. Honestly, of all the reasons I love my SHIELD TV over my Nexus Player, this is close to the top. SAD!
These are the major points that I feel a new Nexus Player needs to address to be taken seriously. The thing that I have always loved about Nexus devices is even though they are almost never at the top of the spec list, they are usually priced competitively and have some neat experimental feature to play with (ex. NFC or Wireless Charging). The Nexus Player didn’t really follow this, though I suppose you could say that Android TV itself was its experimental feature. This time around, I would love to see the Nexus Player include a wildcard feature. Perhaps something like:
- TV-in Option – I don’t see Google returning to the old HDMI-in days of Google TV (though many wish they would), but I do see them taking their Live Channels platform more seriously. I think Google sees the promise for Android TV especially being built into new TV sets. The Live Channels app could do a lot with the inputs on a built in set. However, I don’t really see developers rushing out to buy a brand new TV set with Android TV built in just to get a full sense of what Live Channels could be as a platform. I think Google needs to give people a taste in an affordable set-top box. If this just means including a built in ATSC tuner so that you can attach an antenna, they need to do it. The Nexus Player 2016 would instantly become the de facto cordcutters’ device. Do it, Google.
- Kinect-like or Camera Add-on – Google is getting big into Virtual Reality this year and I think that this could facilitate that push on the living room front. More importantly, it is time for Video Hangouts to come to the TV. The benefit of a Kinect-like device is that it could follow you around the room while you talked!
- One Remote To Rule Them All – With a few IR blasters and HDMI-CEC, there’s no reason the Nexus Player couldn’t be a Harmony Remote competitor and solve another living room pain point.
#2. A Major “Live Channels” Announcement
I don’t even care what. We know that support for DVR and PIP functionality are incoming. We’ve started to see some new apps trickle in to the ecosystem. We love Live Channels. It appears Google loves Live Channels. Let’s get something that will open the floodgates. Here’s a moonshot for you: Google should announce a streaming cable service. Sling TV did it. Sony did it. Apparently Apple is close to doing it. But no one (ahem, Sling TV) wants to utilize Live Channels on Android TV. Do it yourself, Google. It doesn’t even have to be good! Scrounge up 5 of the cheapest channels for $5/month to start with. It can be HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, History Channel 1 & 2. Get them into the Live Channels app and watch the developers flock to be seen alongside this bundle and your local channels via antenna!
#3. Android TV GAMING
Casual gaming has been a focus of Android TV since its conception. The SHIELD TV really showcased Android TV’s ability to be more than just “Angry Birds” on the big screen. I would like to see Google double down on this front and make some pushes for gaming. NVIDIA cooked up a great Twitch broadcasting setup in the SHIELD TV. Android TV should make this a standard feature (Hello, YouTube Gaming!). Perhaps Google Play Games could cook up a Party feature where you can group chat with your friends. Hell, I would even like to do that with my friends during a “Game of Thrones” premiere.
#4. Hangouts (Video)
Now yes we have Tellybean for the platform and it’s phenomenal but for the platforms sake we need competition and we need a standard from Google and for them to leverage their existing platform and add USB Webcam support as a standard across the platform.
#5. Home Automation Hub/Software
Now the Internet of Things is upon us, and we need a center hub for automation especially on Android. Android TV can be that hub whether it works with the alleged “Chip” the Amazon Echo competitor or has an always on mic so that commands can be given through Google Now. But it has to be done right otherwise it will look terrible on the platform. So in an ideal world, there needs to be an open library or framework developers can work with to integrate their apps with others and do combinations in one command, an example being turn on my LIFX lights and start Netflix.
We hope to see at least 1 of these at I/O and anymore would be wishes come true, but with Day 1 spots on the I/O schedule it looks like Android TV will be more than just a mention this year. We will have live coverage this year so stay tuned to Androidtv.news to find out more as it develops.