The War for Your Living Room Continues: Can Android TV Supersede Set-Top Boxes?

Leaked details of Google's reworked television OS show how blissful TV can be. The war for your living room continues between Amazon, Google, and Apple

Apr 8, 2014 at 1:02PM

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is taking that lesson to heart, as the company is reportedly working on Android TV -- a reworking of its Google TV platform. The Verge got its hands on several documents outlining the direction Google intends to take its recently renamed television segment.

This leak comes just days after (NASDAQ:AMZN) revealed its Fire TV, which will compete directly against Google's Chromecast and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) hockey puck. Google may be trying to supersede the competition in this battle for your living room by integrating its software directly with OEM's hardware.

Like Fire TV, but built-in
Part of the attractiveness of Google's Chromecast dongle is its minimalist design. There are no obtrusive wires, no box to find a spot for in your entertainment center, and no remote. A built-in Android OS would achieve a similar effect.

But Google has big plans for the future of Android TV. Namely, many of the same plans as Amazon had with Fire TV. Google plans to include voice search -- something Amazon is heavily touting with its first round of advertising for Fire TV. It plans to improve the user interface to put apps and shows right next to each other -- another Fire TV move. It also plans to try to predict what a user wants to watch, making it easier to access and load content a la Fire TV's ASAP feature.

Apple is rumored to add similar features to the next iteration of Apple TV.

Unlike Apple or Amazon, however, Google will work with third-party OEMs to proliferate its software. It could even license Android TV for free like it does with its smartphone and tablet OS, which means it could be a consumer's least-expensive option.

Google's biggest potential roadblock
The biggest problem Google faces is convincing OEMs that they need Android TV. Samsung and LG are the two largest television OEMs and each develop their own operating systems. Samsung has Tizen, while LG bought Palm's WebOS from Hewlett-Packard last year. Both companies have plans to bring their own OSes to television sets this year.

Indeed, the smart TV market has become extremely fragmented, with just about every manufacturer offering a different interface for accessing apps. Moreover, they're all mediocre interfaces at best. This explains the success of products like Apple TV and Chromecast. There's very little indication that the market wants a standard smart TV OS.

Still, there may be a smaller competitor that looks to Google to differentiate itself and use its brand to drive marketing and sales.

Not built-in Chromecast
Google has had quite a success with Chromecast. The user-interface, where users can "cast" things to their television set from their laptop or mobile device, is clever and simple. Android TV, however, appears to abandon Chromecast features.

Instead, Google has supposedly reached out to companies to develop stand-alone apps for Android TV. In other words, it's asking developers to split their time between two Google platforms.

Meanwhile, Apple is only slowly adding new apps to Apple TV, but may open up the app store to developers with the next iteration. If Apple decides to include its A7 chip in the next Apple TV, it should make porting iPad apps to Apple TV relatively easy.

Amazon has garnered support from numerous developers for Fire TV, but is still missing a few key apps.

If Google can't attract the necessary third-party developers to support Android TV, it may leave manufacturers and consumers asking themselves if they really need it, especially with the after-market options available. Additionally, it could detract from Chromecast's development, hurting Google's other television product.

Boom or bust
With a step up in competition from Amazon, and with Apple expected to release a new Apple TV this year, Google is fighting to keep the momentum it created last year with Chromecast. It's curious, however, that the company isn't extending Chromecast features to Android TV, perhaps in an effort to differentiate the products and improve sales.

Unfortunately, that strategy may come back to bite it, meaning the product could be a boom or a bust. Google, however, has the cash and resources to take the risk.

Google will be heavily reliant on second and third parties to help develop Android TV. Comparatively, Apple's rumored iTV would be a closed ecosystem, which may allow it to launch the product more easily, but doesn't necessarily point to a greater chance for success.

For now, set-top boxes and streaming sticks seem much more attractive as a means to get different software onto a television set.

The $2.2 trillion war for your living room begins now, here's how to profit!
You know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 


Adam Levy owns shares of and Apple. The Motley Fool recommends, Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of, Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers