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Google takes on Apple TV with Android TV connected entertainment platform

Search giant Google on Thursday previewed its latest play for consumers' living rooms with Android TV, a new platform for connected televisions and set-top boxes that brings streaming audio and video alongside custom apps and games.

Much of Android TV's functionality is similar to that of the Apple TV or similar set-top boxes from Roku and Amazon. Users will have access to streaming media from companies like Netflix and Hulu, and Google will make the Play Store available for developers to create apps with TV-centric user interfaces.

The platform will also support gaming, with Google showing off a multiplayer NBA Jam session between a player on an Android TV and one on a Samsung tablet. Game controllers are supported, though the minimum controller requirement is a simple directional pad and — like Amazon's Fire TV — a microphone for voice search.

Android TV's user interface is relatively conventional, though the company does provide an interesting "overlay" view for the home screen. Rather than closing any open content, the home screen will simply sit atop the still-playing content in a translucent panel.

In keeping with Google's platform-focused strategy, the company will not make its own hardware. Rather, they announced a number of partners — including television makers Sony, Sharp, and Philips, who will begin shipping Android TV sets in 2015 — that will manufacture television sets, set-top boxes, and low-powered game consoles based on the software.