Powered by Pano, focused on gaming: Google to announce Android TV at Google I/O in June
Google is about to open up another front in the war for your living room: The company is set to announce the launch of Android TV at its Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco in June, according to multiple sources familiar with Google’s plans.
Android TV won’t be another device, but rather a platform that manufacturers of TVs and set-top boxes can use to bring streaming services to the television. In that way, it is similar to Google TV, the platform the company unveiled at its 2010 Google I/O conference. But while Google TV was focused on marrying existing pay TV services with apps, Android TV will at least initially be all about online media services and Android-based video games.
Google has been talking to a number of media services about participating on Android TV in recent months, and it is expected that the usual suspects, including Netflix and Hulu Plus, all are going to be available at launch. The company is likely also going to announce a few select hardware partners, which could have devices running Android TV available in the coming months.
Android TV’s secret weapon: Pano
Android TV’s key focus will be on simplicity, which will be reflected in the user interface. Key to that is something the company has internally been calling Pano. The idea behind Pano is that apps can surface individual pieces of content right on the home screen in a card-like fashion so that users can browse movies, TV shows and other types of media as soon as they turn on an Android TV.
Content will be presented in a series of cards that can be browsed horizontally, and each movie or TV show episode has deep links into publisher’s apps, giving users the option to start playback right away. That’s different from the traditional smart TV experience, where users generally first have to launch an app from a publisher, and then browse that apps catalog before they can play a title.
As I first reported in April, Android TV originally had an even more radical vision, which would have potentially done away with app user interfaces completely. Publishers would have instead used data feeds displayed via slightly customizable templates, leading to an experience in which apps would have more felt like content directories than disparate experiences with differing user interfaces.
Back in April, I reported that some app publishers apparently weren’t too happy with that idea, despite Google’s assurance that users could always switch to a native app view. At this point, it’s unclear how much of that original vision has survived in the version of Android TV we are going to see next month, but it looks like the original vision of Pano will live on at least for Google’s own movies and TV show catalog. A recently-leaked changelog file for the upcoming version Android 4.4.3 contains plenty of references to Pano, including some that suggest that Google will pull in Rotten Tomatoes ratings and other data to include on movie details pages.
We got a first preview of how Pano is going to look like in April, when the Verge published an internal document about Android TV in April that showed mocked-up screenshots consisting of a cards-based UI with a focus on content, and not apps. I’ve been told that this is largely consistent with what Google is going to announce next month. The look and feel of the UI will be similar to that of Amazon’s Fire TV, including a heavy focus on gaming, I have been told.