WATCH VIDEOS. Italian based Liquid TV has started shipping the first Smartkey TV dongles which turn any TV into a smart TV.
The pocket-sized dongle connects to the HDMI port of any regular TV and converts it into a Smart TV. It’s basically a fully functioning micro-computer the size of a thumb which runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) much like today’s latest smartphones.
The Smartkey TV was first announced in June. It is now the first of those devices that is actually available from their online shop and shipping. The standard package costs €99 and the Smartkey TV with remote control costs €129. The remote control has a keyboard on the back.
Meanwhile, in the US a number of start-ups are joining the race to provide similar add-ons which make existing TV sets smart. These new devices turn any HD television into an Android tablet and the accompanying remote (which includes a keyboard on the back) allows users to interact with their television as they would an Android tablet.
Earlier this month, Pocket TV raised $501,321 on the Kickstarter funding platform. See the Broadband TV News story Pocket TV makes any TV a smart TV.
Now, a similar product is introduced on Kickstarter, called Equiso, which also promises to bring smart TV, including games such as Angry Birds.
These very small dongles, or USB sticks, are an even easier way than connecting a set-top such as Roku or Apple TV to the TV set. What we find interesting is that very small start-ups are now also joining the race for hybrid and smart TV sets. We see the birth of a new ecosystem around the TV set, which is no longer controlled by old school parties such as the CE manufacturers, the broadcasters and the TV distribution platforms, and not even by relative newcomers such as Apple, but by a whole herd of out-of-left-fielders.
Michael Lantz, CEO of Accedo, commented on such new devices and Equiso in particular. His critical notes come as no surprise, as his company is a smart TV app enabler. Especially his remarks about a good UI are pointing at a very weak point of current smart TV solutions – but this is also the case with a lot of current proprietary smart TV apps from the various CE manufacturers.
“The Equiso device clearly shows the power of Android.,” according to Lantz, “Anyone can create a device running Android and the software is mature enough to launch devices with good performance and attractive features.
“Accedo believes that Android will play an important role in TV. Google TV will be available and will run a state of the art Android implementation, but we will also see a number of device manufacturers launch Android-powered TV devices where they add the power of Android to a set of unique features and apps from that specific manufacturer.
“The demo from Equiso is impressive considering their start-up phase, but it also highlights the drawbacks with a direct Android port on TV. It is clear from the demo that many of the apps and user interfaces are not suitable for TV interaction. Accedo firmly believes that even if Android is used in a TV device, the UI will need to be adjusted to fit this use case to get any significant consumer adoption.”
The first video shows the Smartkey TV demo (in Italian only) and the second video shows a call to potential financial backers of the new Equiso smart TV stick on the Kickstarter platform.