Google to turn on new set-top boxes with Android TV software

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By Ian Sherr, Shara Tibken and Joan E. Solsman

Google, after failing to score a hit with its prior TV projects, hasn’t given up on the living room just yet.

The Mountain View, Calif., company is working with partners to produce several television set-top boxes that run its Android software, people familiar with the matter said. The devices will let users view content, listen to music, and play games on their television sets, they said.

Google plans to reveal at least one set-top box and new Android software for TVs on Wednesday at its Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco. Along with its TV efforts, Google also will show off new Android Wear smartwatches from partners such as Samsung and LG, as CNET reported, and talk about its efforts in cars and other areas.

This latest move to bring Android to TVs marks at least Google’s third major foray into the television industry. The company’s previous attempts, including its Google TVs in 2010, have fallen flat, with former partner Logitech calling its Google TV “a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature.” Many Android partners — including Samsung and LG — now rely on their own software to drive their TVs and set-top boxes.

For Google, though, the large market for smart TVs and streaming media boxes makes it worth another try. While TV sales have been sluggish, sales of devices that plug into televisions and play video and music are expected to jump to 330 million units by 2017, double the tally from last year, according to market researcher Parks Associates. More than 50 percent of US households connect their TV to the Internet in some fashion, the researcher also said.

The market potential is luring consumer electronics giants, including Apple, whose $99 Apple TV set-top box grew from a “hobby” product in 2007 to a $1 billion business in 2013. Amazon also announced its own set-top box, the $99 Fire TV, in April.

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