"Android may have its timing right to become a TV platform"

Murmurs of a Google-backed middleware platform for set-top boxes and other consumer electronics devices appear to be gaining substance - Android for TV is coming and soon, and it may have perfect timing, according to some industry watchers.

Masataka Miura, Chairman of the Open Embedded Software Foundation (OESF) has recently been quoted as saying that there will be a number of displays later this year at Japanese electronics show CEATEC which will include prototype Android-based set-top boxes conceptualised by the OESF, which was established last February to create a viable Android-based platform for a variety of embedded products. Consisting of 25 companies, the OESF will launch several working groups, including: set-top boxes, VoIP, network and security, measurement and control, system core, application and services, and marketing and education.

Benjamin Schwarz, Principal Consultant at Farncombe Technology, believes that the timing could be optimal for an Android platform: "Google's silence is difficult to decipher, but the current credit crunch may actually speed things up. In my consulting experience, the only place money has started to dry up a bit is from the advertisers. Subscriptions are still coming in and operators are still rolling out new services (in fact I've started some totally new IPTV projects in March). Whereas this time last year I'd have said that the basic advertising model would change slowly i.e. not much would happen for five years or so, I now think there is a possibility of a new model emerging much more rapidly.

"Advertisers that have cut budgets may ask for better control of who sees what ads before bringing their spending back up," he adds. "Targeted advertising technologies are being tested in many IPTV deployments. Android may have its timing right to become a TV platform to enable this, and I'll have even greater regrets about not having bought Google shares at US$ 80 when they floated. Its clear that Android as a mobile platform is to stop Apple defining what the Internet means to mobile phone users. I can't help but assume that Google must have a similar agenda on the TV."

This year "will be a critical year to see if Android will be successful," believes Jim McGregor, Chief Technology Strategist at In-Stat. "So far, it appears to have more market momentum and fewer pitfalls than many of the other Linux-based, open-sourced solutions in the market", as well as having the all-powerful Google brand behind it.

Speaking to IPTV News, Motorola recently quashed rumours that it is working on an Android-based IPTV set-top box, but for all Google's silence and the refutations of others, Android for TV could become very big news this year.