Today's announcement of Google Home is likely to be the most exciting "living room" news that comes out of the company's annual developers conference, but that doesn't mean TV has been completely forgotten. Google today announced a bunch of new hardware partners for Android TV and Google Cast, its two solutions (just two!) for watching web content on TV screens.
One of these new partners is Chinese electronics company Xiaomi, which is announcing a new version of its Mi Box that will run on Android TV, support 4K, and will ship to the US. Earlier versions of Xiaomi's box were only available overseas, and supported HD video but not 4K. The new 4K Mi Box works with a Bluetooth remote equipped with voice recognition and also has built-in Google Cast tech so you can cast content from iOS and Android devices. Xiaomi hasn't said yet when the new box will be available or how much it will cost.
Google also said that new TVs from Sony Bravia and RCA will ship running Android TV, as well as a Sharp's Net Player. In Europe, Android TV will be available on Beko, Grundig, and Vestel TVs. And Google Cast will work with soon-to-ship TVs from Toshiba, Philips, Magnavox, Westinghouse, and Polaroid. The new TVs are expected to become available this summer.
Xiaomi's new 4K Android TV box comes with a voice-control remote
Google has taken a distinctly two-pronged approach to streaming video on TV since the failure of its original Google TV product. Chromecast is an inexpensive, mobile-driven option that lets users cast content from their mobile devices directly onto a TV screen, provided that a Chromecast dongle is plugged into the TV; Google Cast works the same, but comes built into TVs, so that you don't need the dongle. Android TV, on the other hand, exists either as the default TV operating system in set-top boxes or in TVs themselves. Like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV, it offers apps, or "channels," that stream video.
It's still too early to say whether this is a good approach or just Google covering its TV bases. Executives on both the Android TV and Chromecast teams insist that the two teams work together on the development of Google's web TV products, especially since Google Cast also works natively on Android TV devices.
To date Google says it has sold 25 million Chromecast devices. Sascha Preuter, Google's head of Android TV program management, wouldn't say exactly how many Android TV devices there are out there in the wild, except to venture that it was in the "millions." He said that Google's partnerships with telecom operators are actually a growing part of Android TV's business, with Android TV now running on cable set-top boxes in France, Italy, and Korea, with more to come in North America sometime later this year.