Connected Devices for HDTV: Finally something new!

Being one of the early birds who started working on Mobile Apps in 2008, I sometimes feel that the ecosystem of mobile device applications has not changed significantly.

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Even today, most of the mobile apps developers and QA teams are busy working on Android/iOS applications, changing their user interface almost every quarter and updating their apps for every new iOS/Android release. I am inquisitive to know if people feel it’s still interesting/glamorous, the way it used to be 5 years ago. I personally feel it’s not.

Working on a recent onsite assignment, I came across connected devices like Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV. I came to know that every media application/content that was previously on mobile devices is available on these devices.

As the mobile app ecosystem was reaching the saturation point, OEMs came up with the idea to target a new segment of audience who love big screens. They then offered High Definition TV to this technology and luxury savvy audience, which proved to be a big hit across demographics and geographies.

Along came connected devices and network operated devices, enabling end users to stream digital audio/video content to a high-definition television.

These devices allow consumers to use a HDTV set to view pictures, listen to music, access respective app-stores and stream videos originating from a local network source.

FireShot Capture 66 - Blog on connected devices for HDTV _Sa_ - https___docs.google.com_document_d

What does an end user gain through these devices?

We sometimes find past content of a TV show more interesting than the Live content and often want to watch the old familiar content on demand. A platform like YouTube can provide the required content but a Smart TV would be required to enjoy the experience with high quality videos.

However, companies like Apple, Google, Amazon etc. have come up with the kind of devices that will serve our purpose without a smart TV.

If we have one of the connected device, we can plugin to our home TV and get access to multiple applications available on their respective play/app stores and watch any previous show/video/content we wish. We can even mirror media content on our mobile device to big HDTV sets.

New eco-system for Apps developers and QA professionals

With these emerging devices, Mobile Apps developers and QA professionals have found a new eco system to work with. The interesting point here is that since there are not many apps available on these devices/OS yet, there is a huge scope for software developers to create innovative apps. If we talk about number of apps available, they are still around 30 times lesser than mobile app stores. Most of the American streaming along with Media and Entertainment companies are already on these devices.

Some prominent examples include CNN, CNBC, History, Nat Geo, Netflix, HBO Now, NBC Sports, ABC news, NBA, Disney, Bloomberg etc.

Also, these devices are not much popular in Asian/Emerging markets yet, so we can see an upcoming boom for app development of connected devices in near future. Another key fact is that the developers do not need to learn a completely new language as almost all of these devices basically work on iOS/Android/Amazon OS.

Yes, there would be a challenge for automation testers to automate the testing of these devices as there are few current frameworks which can test connected devices.

But more than a challenge, I feel this can be a great opportunity for developers to start working on automation frameworks and earn a first mover advantage.

Here is a comparison of most popular connected devices:

Device Operating System Highlights
 

 

TV OS

 

  • Launched on January 9, 2007
  • On January 15, 2008, a major upgrade turned the Apple TV into a stand-alone device that no longer required iTunes to stream or sync content to it.
  • On September 9, 2015, 4th Gen Apple TV was launched and Apple allowed developers to make their own apps using the APIs available in tvOS specifically designed towards TV.
 

 

Fire OS

 

  • Supports 4,000 channels, apps, and games
  • Supports 4K Ultra HD
  • Latest OS is FireOS5 based on Android Lollypop
  • Latest Amazon FireTV2 supports games with Gaming remote
 

 

 

 

 

Roku OS

 

  • Roku box runs a heavily modified version of Linux called Roku OS
  • Till date 4 devices have been launched
  • Supports screen mirroring for Android and Windows devices
  • Developers who wish make and test their channels before a release can create "private" channels that require a code be entered by the user in the account page of the Roku website
  • These private channels, which are not part of the official Roku Channel Store, are neither reviewed nor approved by Roku
  • There is an NDK (Native Developer Kit) available, with some restrictions.
 

 

 

 

Android OS

 

  • A smart TV platform developed by Google.
  • Allows access to Google Play store
  • Based on the Android 5.0 operating system or later
  • The interface can be navigated with a game controller, remote control, or the Android TV mobile application.
  • Android TV also supports Google Cast
 

 

 

Chrome OS

 

  • Content can be mirrored from the Google Chrome web browser running on PC or from the screen of Android devices
  • Plays audio/video content on a HD TV by directly streaming it via Wi-Fi
  • Over 20,000 Google Cast–ready apps are available, as of May 2015
  • Till date two devices has been launched by Google

 

So if you are a software or a QA Engineer who is eager to work on something cool, interesting and in demand, connected devices arena has ample reasons to grab your interest. This domain is very exciting to work with as it includes latest technology and equipment like big screens, latest devices and media streaming.

 

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