Though the Android operating system is successful in the mobile arena, it’s long term health could rely on its ability to diversify into other markets.
Android is already popular in the tablet space and is starting to make inroads in set-top boxes. These devices provide a low-cost, functional alternative to established brands.
This week saw news regarding the future of a few Android products across each of these markets. Here’s a few Android products to watch out for:
At an event this week, Facebook announced Home, a new way to interact with the social networking service through specific Android phones.
Called in rumors the “Facebook phone”, Home is actually more of a social app suite than a single device or operating system overhaul. A phone with Home offers more highly integrated versions of the news feed (called cover feed) and messaging. With mobile Facebook interactions increasing, the company has decided to double down and make mobile a leading platform.
Home will be available April 12 on the HTC One, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note II via the Google Play Store. The HTC First will ship with Facebook Home pre-installed when it releases on April 12.
Facebook has set up a hub for the new product at http://www.facebook.com/home, with hosts videos and walkthroughs for interested parties.
Updated Nexus 7
Google’s Nexus line has done a stellar job of pairing an open Android experience with solid, but cost-effective hardware. The tablet devices, the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, have especially earned a reputation as pushing the limit on hardware, while remaining affordable and open.
Rumors are swirling about a possible July update to the Nexus 7, which Reuters (http://reut.rs/17cgAAc) says could bring a higher resolution screen and a lower price. The current Nexus 7 has a screen resolution of 1280×800 pixels (216ppi), which is not bad at all, but is beaten on specs by newer tablets.
A price drop below $150 could cause major movement in the small tablet market, as Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble would all likely reconsider pricing strategies on their respective devices. If you’re in the market for a small tablet, you might be wise to wait it out until the summer to see what the market standard is for hardware and price points.
An area where Android is growing is the set-top box market. These are small devices that are designed to connect to a television and provide network connectivity and multimedia playback (think Roku). The idea is that a low-priced box running open Android would allow for more innovative features than a more locked-down system from the current Internet set-top box giants.
One of the more intriguing Android devices coming out soon is Ouya, a $99 Android set-top box that can play games, surf the web and display multimedia. Initially funded for over $8.5 million dollars on the crowdfunding service Kickstarter, Ouya is set to release to the public in June 4.
Ouya’s internals are similar to a smartphone, so it isn’t amazingly powerful, but the hope is that independent and alternative developers will latch on to the system and output creative titles that might not be suited for traditional consoles. Ouya ships with a wireless game controller, which would be useful for more traditional gaming situations.
Since it runs Android, Ouya will also be able to access any multimedia apps available to the platform, like Netflix and XBMC. If Ouya doesn’t pan out as a gaming system, it may provide a customizable, low-cost alternative to full home theater PCs. Kickstarter backers should be receiving their Ouya devices soon, so watch social media for real-life reviews and impressions.
For Ouya device and pre-order information, see the company’s website at http://www.ouya.tv/.