Google Launches First Android TV Set-Top: Nexus Player

Google has entered another pony in the Internet set-top derby.

The tech giant announced the $99 Nexus Player, a device based on its Android TV platform for watching movies and TV shows from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Google Play and other services, streaming YouTube videos and music, and playing videogames.

Google announced the new Nexus Player Wednesday, along with the Nexus 6 smartphone (built with Motorola), the Nexus 9 tablet (in partnership with HTC) and the release of the Android 5.0 operating system (dubbed “Lollipop”).

The Nexus Player, manufactured in collaboration with Taiwanese consumer-electronics company Asus, will compete with other TV-connected devices already in the market, including the Roku, Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire TV set-tops.

In addition, there is Google’s own $35 Chromecast — a simple Internet-to-TV adapter that is more limited than the app-enabled Android TV platform, according to the company. Google has sold millions of the low-cost dongles so far.

The Nexus Player is part of Google’s attempt to capture an even bigger foothold in the market through Android TV. Devices running Android TV can not only stream video, but function as a gaming device (a $39.99 gamepad controller for the Nexus Player is sold separately). Amazon’s Fire TV also is designed for playing videogames.

Android TV also provides enhanced features like voice-enabled search and content recommendations that aren’t available on Chromecast, as well as an on-screen guide lacking from the cheaper dongle.

With Nexus Player, users can play Android games on their HDTV with a gamepad, then keep playing on their Android phones while on the road. In addition, the Nexus Player supports Google’s “Cast” features, letting users launch videos from almost any Chromebook or Android or iOS phone or tablet to the TV.

Google’s Android TV platform, which it announced this summer, comes after the company’s initial effort in 2010 to develop a TV software platform for CE makers. That initiative, Google TV, it was introduced with partners including Sony, Intel and Dish Network but never gained traction.

The Nexus Player will be available for pre-order starting Oct. 17 and is slated to be in stores starting Nov. 3.

In addition to YouTube, Netflix and Hulu Plus, the set-top’s lineup of streaming services includes PBS Kids, Travel Channel, Sony Crackle, Dailymotion, Vevo, Food Network, Pandora, Songza, Univision Communications’ Uvideos and TED. Meanwhile, AOL announced that its full library of premium content will be available through Google’s Android TV platform.

Other Android TV products are in the works: Google said other manufacturing partners include Sony Electronics, Sharp and TP Vision. According to the Internet company, the entire 2015 HD and Ultra HD 4K television lines from Sony as well as the 2015 TV lines from Sharp and TP Vision will run on Android TV.

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