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Google Tunes Up for the TV (Again)

Google, undaunted by the failures of the original and much-maligned Google TV platform, is targeting the big screen again, this time by way of Android TV, an operating system and apps platform that’s optimized for set-tops, connected TVs and specialized streaming boxes.

Announced last Wednesday (June 25) at Google’s I/O developer’s conference, Android TV will pit Google against Roku, Amazon and Apple — a trio of companies that have developed media platforms for their own devices. Roku has taken it a step further by securing deals to integrate its platform directly into connected TVs made by TCL and Hisense.

Google doesn’t plan to offer its own Android TV-powered set-tops, but will instead seek deals with third-party partners. In the early going, the company said 2015 HD and 4K smart TVs from Sony will run on Android TV, as will 2015 TV product lines from Sharp and TP Vision. Streaming boxes powered by Android TV from Asus, Razr and others not yet named will debut in the fall.

Sharing some traits found in the new Amazon Fire TV box, which uses a “forked” version of Android, devices based on Android TV will support a “lean-back” user interface that connects users to an array of streaming apps and games that can be accessed by a voice-based search engine.

Like Google’s popular Chromecast adapter, Android TV will also integrate Google Cast, allowing users to beam video and other content from their browsers, smartphones and tablets to the TV screen.

Android TV “is not a new platform,” stressed Dave Burke, director of engineering at Android, during the I/O keynote session. The idea is to give the TV “the same level of attention as [Android] phones and tablets have enjoyed,” he said.