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Android devs gain tools to begin Google TV 2.0 ports

Aug 23, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Google announced a preview release of the Google TV add-on for the Android SDK, supported on Linux with KVM emulation. The add-on lets Android app developers start preparing their software for porting to Google TV, in anticipation of the Android 3.x “Honeycomb” IPTV platform that's expected to ship later this year.

On Aug. 22, Google launched a preview version of a Google TV add on to the Android software development kit (SDK), allowing developers to begin building Android applications for the IPTV platform. Google had been expected to launch Google TV 2.0, based on Android "Honeycomb," this summer, but it now seems the release may slip into fall. Eventually, it's said, developers will be able to sell their Google TV 2.0 apps via Android Market.

Google announced Google TV in May 2010, and last October launched the first Google TV devices from Sony and Logitech. The IPTV platform is based on the open source Android operating system and the Google Chrome web browser, and lets users surf the web and TV channels with a unified search function.

The service has suffered from slow sales after a buggy launch on the Logitech Revue companion boxes and Sony Internet TV HDTVs and Blu-ray players. At CES in January, Samsung showed off a Google TV-based Blu-ray player and companion box prototype it said it would introduce later this year.

Google's Fishtank developer system

As recently as May, Google promised to open up Google TV to third-party developers who want to write apps and sell them in the Android Market. In June, the company quietly released Google TV 2.0 "Fishtank" beta code based on Android 3.1, featuring the ability to run an Android app and stream TV at the same time. The company sent out a Fishtank developer's system (pictured above) to about 50 developers.

Although the new SDK add-on is just a prelude to a fuller offering expected later this year, it should give Android developers a indication of how to develop applications for the bigger displays powered by Google TV. This is particularly important for developers accustomed to writing software for Android phones and Android 3.x "Honeycomb" tablets, whose displays are much smaller than those of 42-inch digital TVs.

With that Honeycomb upgrade, Google TV devices will be Android-compatible. This means developers will be able to write Android apps for TV, tailor existing mobile or tablet apps for TV, and distribute them free or sell them through Android Market. The add-on will let developers test their existing Android apps to determine if they would be a good fit for TV. The module includes new APIs for features such as TV channel lineups.

However, there are some caveats to this add-on: Apps that require features not supported on Google TV won't appear in Android Market on Google TV. For example, Google TV-based devices do not have a touchscreen, so apps that require touchscreens will not appear.

Google TV emulation is currently supported on Linux with KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) emulation technology only, though Google is working on support for other operating systems. KVM is designed to let user-space processes exploit the virtualization capabilities built into 64-bit x86 Intel and AMD processors.

Will Motorola save the day for Google TV?

Google TV was a disappointment for some users and industry watchers. In late July, Logitech fired its CEO over poor Revue sales and discounted the box to $99. However, Google expects to remedy that with the Honeycomb upgrade this summer.

Some expect Google could augment the service, which has suffered from lack of interest by broadcasters, with the planned acquisition of Motorola Mobility and its set-top box (STB) business. Google could integrate Google TV software with the Motorola STBs and sell them on the cheap to cable providers and managed service operators such as Verizon and AT&T. Others, however, believe Google will sell off the STB business.


Google's announcement of the preview SDK for Google TV may be found here, and the code itself should be available here.

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