Android TV. (Google / August 20, 2014)

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The arrival of Google's Android TV platform, which runs on Nvidia Tegra K1 technology, could well disrupt the landscape for streaming media players now dominated by Roku and Apple TV, potentially roiling a rapidly expanding market that sells tens of millions of units every year, according to new research from IHS Technology.

The worldwide installed base for streaming media players is forecast to reach 50 million units by the end of this year. For the United States, the most significant single market globally for the product category, the installed base will amount to 24 million units this year, up from 16 million last year and 10 million in 2012, as shown in the attached figure.

By 2017, the number of installed streaming media players in the U.S. is anticipated to reach 44 million units. And when combined with an aggregate of 169 million Blu-ray Disc players, game consoles and Smart TVs, the total U.S. installed base of connected TV devices in 2017 will amount to some 213 million units.

"Given the ongoing shift among consumers toward streaming media consumption, the market for standalone streaming media players is continuing to heat up," said Paul Erickson, senior analyst for the connected home at IHS. "Today Roku and Apple TV continue to dominate the U.S. installed base for streaming media players, with a combined 94 percent share in 2013, and Amazon's Fire TV is a significant recent entrant. However, the arrival of Android TV is expected to significantly affect the competitive dynamics of this market over the long run."

Similar to what market leaders Roku and Apple TV currently offer, the Android TV platform seeks to provide users with access to media streaming services and apps. In the past, the typically Android-based offerings from low-priced competitors have lacked the refinement, functionality, ecosystem, and user experience to compete head to head with products from Roku or Apple. But the appearance on the scene of Android TV will potentially equip these lesser players and vendors with access to a complete, ready-made platform for streaming-media-player use that delivers a suite of benefits, noted Erickson.

These benefits include a new user experience purposely designed for TV, content access from Google Play as well as third-party apps, Google-powered content search and discovery with voice recognition, integration with the Android mobile device ecosystem, and built-in Chromecast functionality that enables media casting and screen mirroring from multiple device platforms.

Lesser threat to Apple, but Android TV could still act as spoiler

To be sure, Apple remains the most solidly situated in the streaming player market, backed by a strong content ecosystem and a near-captive iOS customer base that grows with each record-breaking iPhone release. And although its related products are expected to be disruptive of the status quo, Android TV is not likely to cause a toppling of Apple's competitive position.

Android TV could be more problematic, however, for Roku, which lacks similar direct integration with an ecosystem; and for Amazon's Fire TV, which limits content search-and-discovery results to Amazon-sourced content alone while also narrowing content mirroring/casting functionality to its own-branded tablets.

Certainly, Android TV remains a streaming player platform to watch for the near future--not just because it is Google's best effort yet to break into the living room, but also because of its potential to create problems for today's market leaders.

Standalone media players that choose to utilize Android TV may also benefit in the long run, Erickson said.

"Although standalone media player products utilizing Android TV do not have the brand recognition, established brand equity, or level of retail distribution that products from companies like Apple, Amazon, and Roku possess, over time these standalone players are expected to create competitive pricing and positioning concerns by delivering previously absent levels of polish, capability, ecosystem integration, and content access to consumers at lower price points."

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