A View from the Mountain

Android everywhere

A View from the Mountain

Android everywhere

On the eve of I/O 2023 9to5google portal published an article with an overview of Google in the living room, a roadmap of Google TV and Android TV, and expectations for the future.

Inspired by the article, on the eve of Google Bootcamp in 2023, an event we will attend for the 10th time, we reflect on RT-RK’s accomplishments in Android OS based TV, talk about our partnership with Google, and ponder on the future of Android in the consumer and automotive industries.

How it all began for Google and us

In the early 2010s, as the Android market started to bloom with apps on mobile devices and tablets, it became clear that the Android OS based TV would soon become the central entertainment, information, and communication hub at home. Announced at Google I/O 2010, Google TV (the First) was initially underwhelming upon its market launch. However, it offered a platform for users to navigate and access apps and Chrome. Meanwhile, we at RT-RK were busy crafting integration of DTV support in Android, dubbed ANDROID4TV, an approach awarded Merit at ICCE 2012.

Our first commercial project for a major European operator Swisscom, based on AOSP (Android Open Source Project) as there was no viable alternative at the time, caught the attention of Google which had undergoing experiments with TV OS. Our early adopter position and our expertise in digital TV proved to be crucial for our continuous cooperation with Google on Android TV and Google TV since.

How it unfolded for us

After the successful start of the project with Swisscom, we have ridden the wave as the most successful software company in the Android TV ecosystem and as a top performing engineering service provider for the state-of-the-art software components and solutions of iWedia, making Android OS based TV implementations our most profitable business.

Our first set-top-box development in Europe hit the market in 2013 for Bouygues Telecom on Jelly Bean. The cooperation with the French operator has continued with the alternatives of the box on various Android versions reaching more than three million deployed units by 2019, and with the 3rd generation device launched in 2022, marking our longest and most productive cooperation with an operator, thus far.

Google’s last mile for the client

Google took notice of our early achievements, as they actively sought out partners capable of assisting in the platform’s scalability. In 2014 we demonstrated iWedia’s DTV middleware running on Android OS, which resulted in Google’s invitation for collaboration. Our strongest relations with Google and its veterans originate from the era of Android TV API standardization (and later Android TV Input Framework – TIF adoption) when we were learning with and from each other.

Along the Android OS based TV roadmap RT-RK has actively aligned with Google’s directives preserving the role of pioneer in supporting operators in monetizing television audiences, through ad insertion, the development of a live TV application UI which resembles the look and feel of Google TV (the Second), to name a few.

Thanks to our unwavering commitment, our residence at the forefront of embracing Android TV from its inception, and Google’s recognition, we have been a confidant and trustworthy “last mile” for manufacturers and telco operators all over the globe in implementation, life cycle management and upgrade for both Android TV and Google TV based products, successfully catering to the clients and assisting them in navigating the roadmap full of challenges.
This, in the time span from 2014 to the present day, has been the case for the following: operator KDDI and their Buddy Box, our first deployment in Japan; Ericsson for Telus /Sasktel /Bell Canada operators from Jelly Bean to Nougat; Stofa telecom from Nougat to Oreo; Hikari TV and set-top-box for the Japanese operator NTT Plala & DOCOMO; VEON for Beeline Russia and Kazakhstan; OTT and Hybrid projects for Reliance JIO; for Sky and others, making a total of over 20 successful product launches with major operators worldwide and over 45 million devices worldwide running software developed by RT-RK.

Merit Award for outstanding paper Android4TV, IEEE ICCE 2012.
Merit Award for outstanding paper Android4TV, IEEE ICCE 2012.

Automotive and consumer industries, the outlook

With the rise of Android in car infotainment systems and the foundation of Android Automotive, RT-RK has become Google’s partner for this OS, and one of the leading companies with expertise in this domain. With different opportunities for automotive OEMs to benefit tremendously from various in-vehicle services, CarPlay and Android Auto may not suffice. Instead, the OEMs might need native software with deep integration of embedded software and connected services, along with frequent updates of software and the UX. Drawing an analogy with the consumer industry, to RT-RK this would be “swimming in familiar waters.” What choices the automotive OEMs will make is still to be seen.

Merit Award for outstanding paper Android4TV, IEEE ICCE 2012.

In the consumer world, a new trend where streaming becomes a central pillar of the viewers’ entertainment, puts an additional burden on selection of the set-top-box OS, making it a decision implying deep consequences for the buyers who want to know how a given OS will address their longer-term business objectives and how easy it will be to evolve and enhance their platform to implement these. Additionally, the buyers are also evaluating what life would be like in a long-term working relationship with a given vendor. With the UI enabled by the set-top-box OS being a major determinant for a host of critical business KPIs, (such as churn, consumption, and conversion rates), the buyers look for the OS with strong capabilities across all the components of an effective UX, as well as third party technologies integration optionality. The flexibility to efficiently customize, enhance and change every aspect of the UX is critical to achieve the operator’s business objectives.*

The latest innovations in the TV business offer new audience monetization plans. Telly is introducing a TV concept based on two screens where the viewer gets TV hardware at no cost, and the entire revenue stream and business model is subsidized by the advertisers. This transformative idea brings together consumers, advertising agencies, and content providers in a symbiosis, resulting in a potential win-win scenario. At the cost of giving away information on habits and preferences of the user and their household, consumers are presented with ads that genuinely resonate with their needs and desires, enhancing their overall engagement and satisfaction. Agencies can craft captivating campaigns that prompt viewers to actively engage with the content and forge deeper connections with their target audiences. As this concept circumvents content provider’s on-screen policy (the second screen is used to push ads), if the idea persists, it can be expected that content providers will alleviate their strict on-screen policy to secure a fair share in the deal.

Merit Award for outstanding paper Android4TV, IEEE ICCE 2012.

*Report The Drivers Behind STB Technology OS Purchasing Decisions courtesy iWedia.

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