Google’s announcement that it would bring Android to TV sets changes the game significantly, not least by putting the search giant head-to-head with games console makers, says Adam Maguire.
The announcement that Google would make a TV platform has been met with quiet interest as the industry tries to gauge exactly what this will mean for broadcasters and online video services alike. Google TV appears to work as a top-layer service, interfacing with a user’s other set-top boxes -and video content available online – sorting its content through its search algorithm for easy access.
Critically Google TV will run on a tweaked version of Android OS, the software that has to date been used most in mobile phone handsets. This means that the service will also have a built-in web browser but most importantly it will also have access to the Android Market, where applications will be downloaded and viewed on a TV.
Not only does this mean the TV could become a hub of activity once again, home to people’s organisational tools and social networks but it also puts Google head to head with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo in the home gaming market.
As it stands mobile phones are being touted as an increasing threat to the handheld gaming market, with the iPhone in particular producing games to rival what is available on the Nintendo DS. Google TV could – and almost certainly will – feature downloadable games on its app store and with the extra hardware power available it could start to become a real challenger in the home console space.
The games made for Google TV would not be of PS3 quality, of course, but they could easily compete with the Xbox Arcade and WiiWare markets when it comes to cheap, small and disposable games. In fact the Wii is probably the one to fear most as Android handsets can be used as controllers, offering a clear competitor to the WiiMote.
The Google TV set-top box is likely to be more powerful than a phone, in some ways at least, and has far more potential than a phone to be made even more powerful over time. In fact it is likely that we will very quickly see a modified PC running the software, with all the power required to allow for high-spec gaming.
The question now is how developers play this hand and how the likes of Sony and Microsoft react. Do they see the threat? Perhaps they do and this is the reason why Sony has only committed to making a built-in version of Google TV so far, as opposed one running in a separate set-top box.
If they are at all sensible they will not repeat past mistakes and write this off as too under-powered to be a challenge, just as they did the Nintendo Wii.