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Google TV and Google Nexus Q: What this means for Smart TV

Google TV finally touched down in the UK this week, with Sony announcing a Google TV set top box (the NSZ-GS7) with the promise of one with an integrated Blu-Ray player (the NSZ-GS9) coming later in the year.

This announcement landed ahead of Google I/O 2012, where Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and the Google Nexus Q media hub were announced.

But what does this all mean for Android fans in the UK eager to jump on the Smart TV bandwagon?

Google TV and Google Nexus Q: What this means for Smart TV

Google TV: Rent movies on your Android phone, tablet or TV

Google’s says that as of now there’s 100,000 movies and TV episodes available to watch on Google TV via Google Play.

Tied up with previous endeavours like YouTube/Google Play movie rentals, this allows you to start watching a flick or programme on your Android phone or tablet on the way home and then carry on where you left off on your Google TV when you get in.

Being able to purchase movies on the go from your phone (you get 30 days in which to view titles, and a 48 hour viewing window once you start watching) is pretty handy.

Handy, neat and useful, sure – but revolutionary? Sky customers already have Sky Go. Anyone who wants to watch BBC shows on the go, well there’s iPlayer apps for iOS, Android and even BlackBerry phones, with Windows Phone rumoured to finally get on board.

iPlayer already comes baked into hundreds of devices in the market, so it’s yet to be seen if Google TV will draw much interest in this department.

Channel 4 is all set to launch 4seven, its 7-day catch up service, with iPhone and iPad apps waiting in the wings. No doubt an Android counterpart will follow shortly, as was the case with Channel 4’s 4oD apps.

A separate 4seven channel will be coming to Sky and Virgin Media and Freeview as well, meaning anyone interested might not wait around for a 4seven Android app to appear on Google TV.

Google Nexus Q: Stream Google Play content around the home

At a first glance, Google’s Nexus Q is a little more than an Androidy-take on Apple TV.

It does many of the same things – lets you play your music and movies, purchased from Google Play (in lieu of iTunes) to compatible speakers (it doubles as a 25 watt amp) and TV sets in a room. If you’ve got more than one Nexus Q in your house, you can choose to have music piped through to the bedroom, the bathroom or the living room, a la Sonos.

It ties in with Google’s efforts in the Smart TV sector, giving you access to the on-demand/Google Play dimension of Google TV, but not much else. Though it plugs in to your TV set via HDMI, with no TV tuners built in, it can’t really be thought of as a Google TV set top box.Google TV and Google Nexus Q: What this means for Smart TV

Google Nexus Q hacks

Google however is tacitly encouraging hackers to have a go at modding Nexus Q’s. Currently, you don’t stream content to the Nexus Q from your phone; rather, you send a request to the Nexus Q from your phone to retrieve content from the cloud which you’ve either previously uploaded (to Google Music) or purchased (from Google Play).

Given that the Nexus Q connects to your home Wi-Fi network in order to receive these requests, we can’t see how it’d be too difficult to enable streaming of any ‘hardcopy’ files you’ve got on your phone, your desktop or on a portable drive.

In fact, there’s already been an attempt to get games running on the Nexus Q; Philippe Hausler at Apportable (a start-up specialising in porting iOS games to Android) half-managed to get Swords and Soldiers running on a Nexus Q. Due to the game requiring multi-touch controls, it didn’t really work out, but proves that it is possible (spotted on Slashgear).

Manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and Comigo launching TV remote control apps. Why not take this idea one step further, launch a controller app designed for games to be played on the big screen, via Nexus Q, on your Android phone or tablet. Dual-screen apps and games is a feature that’s expected to hit Apple TV via iOS 6, so we imagine that Google would want to encourage devs in this direction.

The Google Nexus Q has the potential to be more than another Apple TV-cum-Sonos hybrid, but based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely that it’ll be top of many people’s shopping lists. That said, the Nexus Q is not even a week old, so it’s too early to write it off as an expensive, shiny bauble. Time will tell though.