This streaming tech battle between Google and Roku is getting real.
On Tuesday, TCL made good on a promise made at the beginning of the year at CES, introducing 5-Series and 6-Series smart TVs powered by the Google TV operating system.
Huizhou, China-based TCL introduced a low-end 3- and 4-Series product line based on Google's legacy Android TV OS last year. But it's now putting Google's flagship OS, first introduced in the Chromecast with Google TV device in October, into its featured smart TV lines.
Not only did TCL's 6-Series beat the company's Korean rivals, Samsung and LG, to market with Mini LED backlighting technology, but it was the first to introduce quantum dot HDR color, as well.
TCL's 6-Series also undercuts Samsung and LG's comparable models on price, with a 55-inch set MSRP'd at $999. (Here's a TCL product page for 6-Series pricing and features.)
What does this mean? Well it's bad news for the bears ... the "bears," in this case, being Roku.
Roku has grown its customer base to an industry-leading 55 million users worldwide, based mainly on the fast proliferation of TCL smart TVs powered by its OS. In fact, at almost every public and investor event, Roku boasts that it controls more than a third of the North American smart TV market, with those TCL 5- and 6-Series sets leading the way.
Roku claims it has an advantage over smart phone-based operating systems like Google TV, which is foundationed on Android mobile. Roku says its OS is "purpose built" and requires that smart TV clients spend less on hardware need to run its software.
This is just one front on an emerging rivalry between the two Silicon Valley companies, with Roku recently pulling the YouTube TV app our of its Channels Store over a business dispute.
For its part, TCL told TheVerge that it's not picking sides between Google and Roku, but rather hedging its bets on a predicted day in which control of the connected living room is distilled to just two operating systems, Roku and Google TV. TCL just expanded its Roku-powered product line to Europe, for example.
But as TheVerge smartly noted, envisioning such a world means you think that Samsung's Tizen and LG's webOS are chopped liver, as is Amazon's Fire TV.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.
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