When Google announced Android TV at its I/O conference earlier this summer, Tejas Lagvankar was skeptical.
The software engineer, who works at Yahoo! Inc. in San Francisco, has been developing apps for Google Glass as a side project for the past few years. While he’s pretty enthusiastic about Glass’ prospects, he had doubts about whether the company’s latest foray into TV would pay off.
Google’s last push into the living room had been in 2010, but the project had never really gone anywhere – hence Lagvankar’s uncertainty about Android TV. Yet once he began trying to develop for the platform, he found some things to like.
“Today we have all these smart TVs from Samsung, LG, and others, and they all have their own operating systems. It’s hard for one developer to support all those TVs … but in 2015, most of them will go to Android. That’s what they hinted at Google I/O,” says Lagvankar, who will be presenting at AndroidTO on Thursday, showing other developers how to build apps for Android TV.
“It’s going to take time to get the device to market,” he says, adding Google only recently opened up its Android TV application programming interfaces (APIs) to developers. But now that it has, we might see some new and creative apps coming out.
In Lagvankar’s mind, Android TV is definitely a step up from Google TV for a number of reasons, one of them being its emphasis on user experience. With Google TV, users originally had to point a mouse at the TV, which can be a hassle as the screen is so much bigger than what typically comes with a desktop. That’s now gone in Android TV. And then there is the menu that now comes with the Android TV, which is much simpler and looks much more like what people are used to with Android OS, he adds.
There are some differences between developing for Android TV and Android’s mobile OS, though. Developers need to pay attention to the form factors of the two platforms, as mobile devices regularly switch back and forth between landscape and portrait mode, depending on how a user holds a mobile device. TVs, of course, are much more stationary.
And then there may be some huge differences between how consumers use Android TV, versus how they interact with their mobile devices. Google is touting Android TV as a hub for gaming, entertainment, and so on, with users able to run multiple accounts for the platform for one device – the same way Netflix now allows a family to have multiple personalized streams for each family member.
While he’s not too sure how developers can build business or productivity apps for Android TV, he says there’s room for more digital signage products out there. Plus, in offices or workplaces, Android TV apps might be useful for status updates, showing employees the latest in a development life cycle, and so on.
While most of Lagvankar’s day job centres around developing for Android’s mobile operating system (OS), he began experimenting with Google Glass during two different hackathons in 2013 – when Google launched its Mirror API, and again when it launched its full Glass Development Kit.
He ended up winning both of those hackathons, first by creating a cooking app for Google Glass users, and then by building a sheet music app that would automatically scroll to the next bar or section of a piece of music. He has since built an app for users who want to play chords on different musical instruments.
So for other developers who are considering breaking into other platforms, and developing for wearables or TV, Lagvankar says it’s definitely worth trying new things.
“It’s good to know what’s new, what’s working, and what’s not working,” he says. “It keeps you on edge, and the tech advances so fast.”