Major tech companies are fighting to control your living room. Apple has Apple TV. Microsoft has Xbox One. Sony has PlayStation. Amazon has its Fire and Echo devices. Google is banking on Nexus Player and Chromecast.
Each platform has its pros and cons. Apple TV is great device for those locked into Apple's ecosystem. You can watch most streaming services; you can buy shows, movies and music. It’s a great extension of your iOS device to the living room. That’s pretty much what it is. There are some mobile games, but they are mobile games. Since it’s a closed platform, the scope of Apple TV is very limited. I can’t even pair my Bluetooth keyboard with it.
Xbox is a great gaming device. And now you can also get access to major streaming services and certain apps, which makes Xbox a device that can be used beyond gaming. Sony PlayStation falls into the same category. The problem with both these devices is that there is no mobility. You can’t take your content – games and stuff with you on the move as you can with the Apple platform.
Amazon’s Fire platform is a way to sell more Amazon stuff to users. You can access major streaming services, but you don’t have a very huge app or game ecosystem.
Then there's Google’s Android TV, which so far has underwhelmed. But that changes when you throw a hardware vendor like Nvidia to the mix. I see huge potential in Nvidia’s Android Linux based platform Shield.
Shield has three product categories: Android TV, tablet and a portable gaming device. Nvidia is positioning its platform as a complete entertainment solution for the living room.
I have Nvidia Shield Tablet and Android TV. Here's what I think makes this platform particularly appealing.
The Shield platform has full access to the Google Play store. That means all games, movies, TV shows and music on the Play store are at the disposal of Shield users.
On the hardware side, it’s very easy to pair third-party devices like Bluetooth keyboards, mouse or trackpad with Shield TV. You can expand storage through SD card or external hard drives.
Nvidia's Shield platform is emerging as the Netflix of gaming. Nvidia is investing heavily in the GeForce Now steaming service, where high-end PC games run on Nvidia servers and then users can play those games from supported Shield devices, including the TV and the tablet.
The company recently brought the latest PC game Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel to Nvidia Shield dismissing critics who said that Android can’t scale beyond mobile gaming. It’s the same game that runs on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Chris Daniel, senior product manager for Nvidia Shield, told me that Nvidia is working on bringing more high-end PC games to the GeForce Now service. The conversation has changed from what Android is capable of doing to being about business opportunities for game publishers.
But these are streaming services, what about native game-playing capabilities? “Our current Tegra X1 graphic processor is faster than PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 so already locally we are able to play games that are as good quality as you saw on last generation of consoles," Daniel said. And the company continues to make these chips more and more powerful. As the processing power increases, I assume Shield devices will inch towards becoming full-fledged gaming consoles.
There is one more bit that makes Shield interesting, you can also stream your PC games like Call of Duty 3 or Division from your PC to Nvidia Shield using their GameStream technology. This is good news for gamers as they get more out of their investment in Nvidia Shield.
I don’t know what else Nvidia has up its sleeve. But I see no reason why Shield can’t truly own the living room.
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