Origins of the Smart TV
Smart TV platforms have come a long way since they were first released. The initial smart TV platform was announced by Apple in 2006 and released for public consumption in 2007. It was revolutionary. At the time, Apple TV was the only standalone console that could stream high definition video, giving it first-mover advantage. Users were able to forego a big, bulky laptop and shift their content directly to their TV sets. With due time, other companies entered this space. Take for instance, Google. Google released Google TV in attempts to compete in the realm of set top boxes, however, they were unable to obtain the same success as Apple. It took three attempts before Google was able to gain some footing with the launch of Android TV. With both Google and Apple vying in the smart TV connected devices space, there was high competition to develop something more innovative than the last. From only being able to stream content to now enabling users to view photos, play games, and even interact with a variety of apps, it is safe to say that smart TV platforms have significantly evolved over the years.
Android TV as the Successor
Android TV is one of the platforms that now exists at the forefront of smart TV connected devices. The platform was developed by Google to create an interactive TV experience for users and to eventually become the successor of Google TV. Android TV can be built into TVs or into standalone devices. Two major wins for this platform include Google’s contract with Sony to implement Android TV into their television sets and Dish announcing the AirTV Player, an Android TV streaming device for on-demand streaming and internet TV. These two business partnerships will allow the platform to be more prevalent in households and become a strong contender to Apple TV. Users are able to download apps from the Google Play Store such as streaming services (Netflix and Hulu) and even games. These innovative features that come with the platform are due to Google’s open app development system. As a result of this open system, other companies are able to create their own TV solutions. The open system also allows Android TV to be exposed to a wider population of developers, allowing them to have more freedom to build a larger variety of apps, especially games.
Apple Remains Competitive
Apple TV today is a little box, the size of your palm, that hooks up to your TV and Wi-Fi. It allows for users to stream content to their TVs and is no longer limited to just iTunes. It has seamlessly integrated AirPlay streaming from all other Apple devices, allowing iPhones, Macs, and iPods to act as remote controllers. The platform also allows users to download third party apps for games, streaming music, podcasts, shows, and more desirable content. These features were lacking in the previous generation, which led critics to predict that Android TV would acquire a competitive edge. However, with the release of Apple’s 4th generation, users can now stream video content live or on-demand through the internet and also have access to over 530 apps to download from the new tvOS App Store.
The 4th generation of Apple TV uses the tvOS operating system, which allows developers to create apps using their own interface. Developers now have the ability to build apps using the APIs specifically for tvOS on Apple TV. With a few alerations to the shared codebase, developers can port over apps from iOS to tvOS with relative ease. Overall, this has allowed for a wider selection of apps that are available on Apple TV. For example, users can order a Papa John’s pizza, check their favorite teams’ scores, or even browse houses on Zillow just as easily as they could on mobile.
The variety of apps now available for smart TV users are endless, especially now that developers can easily integrate mobile apps over to TV with little modification. As a result of Google allowing more open development for their team, they were able to implement voice search and the ability for users to download apps directly to their TVs, securing Google a larger presence within the smart TV category. Apple quickly followed suit and came out with their fourth generation products that seamlessly integrated with each other. With the release of their 4th gen line, Apple was also able to introduce voice search and allow developers to share a similar code base between apps built for mobile and TV.
Thinking back to the beginning of Smart TVs to what they are now is quite fascinating. What once started as a computer streaming only device turned into a much more interactive experience with live content streaming and direct app engagement.