It was a good sign back in October when word leaked that Google was getting ready to abandon the “Google TV” branding for its living room video platform in favor of “Android TV.” Google is a lot of things, but to most people “Google” means web search. And searching the web turned out to be a lousy paradigm for a TV interface. Too lean-forward for a lean-back medium.
“Android TV” was better because it conjures up an app-based UI and signaled that Google’s TV platform would be embedded within the broader Android content ecosystem. “Android” also means mobile, and its adoption suggested an integration of TV and mobile devices in keeping with the trend toward second-screen use in the living room.
But the use of “Android” by Google itself was also problematic from a branding perspective. Android is a sprawling and fragmented platform that supports a wide variety of user experiences froma wide variety of manufacturers. It’s simply too diffuse to give definition to an unfamiliar product category.
Worse, Android is, by design, non-proprietary. It could mean Samsung as easily as it means Google at this point. If Google is serious about its TV platform as an actual product category rather than simply an extension of Android, using the generic “Android” branding doesn’t make sense.
With this week’s reports that the next generation of Google’s TV product could be branded “Nexus TV,” however, it may finally be getting both the strategy and the branding right. As I’ve argued before, over-the-top TV (broadly speaking) is evolving into an extension of mobile platforms and services, in which touch-driven, handheld devices will host the TV UI and content intended for the TV will be targeted at those mobile devices rather than to the set top, which is still controlled by incumbent pay-TV providers.
Consumers will also pull content from web and mobile platforms themselves and port it to the TV, rather than having it pushed at them by a service provider or network programmer.
If the latest reports of a “Nexus TV” rollout are borne out, Google will be astride both pillars of the emerging OTT paradigm with proprietary branded devices-cum-services. “Nexus” is Google’s house brand of Android-based mobile devices and the “Nexus TV” branding associates the TV platform clearly with the Nexus family of mobile products, with a baked-in Play Store and other Androidy features. Whatever set-top box Google may roll out might even enjoy a bit of a halo created by the well-regarded Nexus phones and tablets.
Google’s Chromecast TV dongle, meanwhile, brings Google’s web brand, Chrome, into the living room without imposing a webby UI on users. Chromecast has no native UI at all, in fact. It’s merely a device that will eventually enable consumers to pull whatever free-range web content — in app form or otherwise — into the living room and fling it to their TV using a mobile device.