Google is working with several OEMs to create a market of Android-based set-top boxes to compete with other retail devices such as the Roku, Amazon's Fire TV, and Apple's Apple TV, according to multiple media outlets.
This would be little new for Google. The company had previously allied with Intel, which began making chipsets designed specifically for use in set-top boxes that would be known as Google TVs. At roughly the same time, Google began building its first Google Fiber network (in Kansas City) and was also negotiating with various programmers for content Google could carry as a virtual MVPD.
Logitech was first out of the gate with a Google TV box, but sales were disappointing. Sony and Asus did little better. Google’s negotiations with programmers were unsuccessful. Intel spent the intervening two years divesting many of its TV-related assets.
Nonetheless, the success of boxes such as Apple’s and Roku’s suggests that there is a basis for building a business around set-top boxes that could evolve into a business for versatile home gateways.
Google’s Chromecast dongle, meanwhile, has met with some success.
Google has seen success with Android-based smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices, and it seems a natural progression – especially given its past TV-related ambitions – to move to set-tops. Android set-tops should presumably be easily accessed and controlled by other Android-based devices. The Wall Street Journal quotes one person familiar with the box saying that users might find the box an effective bridge for moving gaming activities back and forth from mobile devices and TV sets.
It is unclear if Google plans to ever sell a set-top box under its own brand, in the same way it has its brand on Chromecast products.
One key feature according to a developer who has been briefed on Google's plans will be games that work seamlessly between mobile devices and televisions. For instance, a user playing a game on an Android smartphone while commuting might be able to resume the game on an Android-powered television at home.
Android games and other apps built for TVs are also expected to take advantage of larger screens, for instance split-screen, multiplayer games will be offered according to a person who has seen one such game being developed.