I have been waiting (impatiently) for the new Android store link for my Google TV. There has not been much information since the Google I/O earlier this year…..Until now.
There was a great article on AnandTech that is specifically about the updates for my device (Logitech Revue) but currently, the limited group of developers (50) who were invited and given the device are working to create the initial applications and interface.
One of the things that seemingly wasn’t covered much at Google I/O was Google TV. It was clearly difficult for the Android team to admit that Google TV was not received nearly as well as everyone had hoped. As cool as the Apple TV competitor was, it lacked some critical functionality in order to “bring the internet to the largest screen in your home”.
We were told at Google I/O that all of us early adopters would be upgraded eventually to a revamped, re-imagined Google TV that was built on Android 3.1. During the conference, invitation requests for what was being called the Google TV “Fishtank” program were said to have been distributed. The idea was that this program would be an under-wraps program to get developers in on the Google TV 2.0 action before there was a proper SDK. Now, months after the event, we’ve been sent detailed images and explanations regarding Fishtank.
This program is not currently public–according to our source there are less than 50 people in this program right now–but we’ve got some very interesting information. If you are a fan of Google TV or had high hopes for the program, you won’t want to miss this.
There’s very little in the box that a Fishtank developer receives from Google. The shipping box contains an Intel CE4100 reference platform loaded with Google TV v2.0 beta, a power cord and a keyboard. The device itself is 12.5″ wide x 11″ deep x 2.5″ tall. The keyboard shipped with the device is the same wireless keyboard found with a Logitech Revue, only the reference unit does not have the receiver hard-wired, so you get a Logitech Unifying USB dongle to slide into the back of the device. There’s not much known about what is inside the box, but we do know a bit about the CE4100 chipset. Intel’s System on a Chip, originally codenamed Sodaville, was built specifically for web connected set top boxes, using a 45nm architecture specifically built to handle internet and broadcast applications. Additionally, this chipset claims to be able to handle Flash and 3D gaming, which helps paint a picture for what these devices will be capable of.
The inclusion of the same Logitech keyboard found bundled with the review could be taken to suggest that Logitech is still a devoted partner in the Google TV product, and may even once again be a hardware partner for the 2.0 release. At this point nothing is confirmed.
The back of this device shows quite a few more ports than what’s available on existing Google TV set top boxes, including coaxial ports, which would suggest Google has decided to let non-HD users enjoy Google TV as well. This is still a reference hardware, however, so there is nothing that says that any of these ports will be on the back of the next Google TV device, but it is clear that Google is allowing developers access to a great deal more video-in and video-out possibilities.
Android 3.1-powered Google TV
The device comes pre-loaded with Google TV 2.0 beta, which we’ve been told is a stripped down version of Android 3.1. It includes a Clock app and the Live TV function, which currently only receives a signal from the HDMI port. The only other app that comes pre-loaded on the box is Google Chrome–not the Android browser, an honest-to-goodness full version of Google Chrome.
Navigating the OS shows the same deep blues and blacks found in Android 3.1, with optimized placement of items like the Settings and My Apps areas. Since there are so few apps, it’s difficult to get a sense for how multitasking works, but you can see ”Dual View” which is likely the ability to run an app and stream TV at the same time, or maybe even run two apps side by side.
What developers are saying about the program
We’re told Google communicates directly with the developers via a private Google Groups message board. This allows the Google team to field questions and allows the developers to help each other throughout the process. According to our source, one of the largest threads on this board is an ongoing argument between the developers and Google in regards to how the “Live TV” app works. Currently, Live TV functions in such a way that allows it to broadcast behind the home screen while you do something else. At this time, developers will not have access to the live TV feed while it’s not in direct focus.
This apparently has become quite a point of contention, we’re told many of the developers earned there way into the program with ideas that directly involved this feature–specifically, the ability to overlay data on top of Live TV or to place Live TV in a smaller window while information is displayed. So far, Google has stated that while they would consider the feature, there are no plans at this point to make it available at the API level, which has upset a number of the developers, forcing some to scrap their original project entirely.