Wyplay has become the latest set-top middleware and UX vendor to embrace the Android TV platform, and market a custom launcher for Android TV’s Operator Tier. Debuted in Q1 2017, and formalized in the second and third quarters of the same year, Operator Tier affords Android TV adoptees considerably more latitude in designing a device’s home-screen, app carousel, icons, and content placement.
To date, Wyplay’s core business has revolved around the development and curation of the Frog open-source middleware platform. That Wyplay is now promulgating a UX solution, and bunding it with DVB-related system integration services, is testament to Android’s ability to re-shape the pay TV software value chain, and necessitate new product strategies.
The open-source TV software segment regroups three distinct components: operating systems; middleware products; UX solutions. While these components are inherently complementary – all three are required to build a complete set-top software stack – de facto competition has emerged between different components, and those components’ backers. The Android TV operating system, the Frog middleware stack, and the Comcast-backed RDK ecosystem are all positioned around the same promise: to shorten software development cycles, decrease the cost of feature iteration, and bring connectivity and apps to operator-managed CPE.
Android TV’s recent and rapid adoption is disturbing the existing value chain, and amounts to a partial repudiation of the open-source software opportunity. While RDK and Wyplay-based systems are inherently more customizable – both are true, open-source platforms – operators have struck a distinct compromise over the past year-and-half: the pay TV segment appears willing to exchange personalization, and ultimate discretion over a device’s UX, for the completeness of Android TV’s app ecosystem and off-the-shelf features.
The pay TV segment’s championing Android TV has two additional, knock-on effects. First, the platform’s adoption is changing the nature and size of the middleware industry. The market for developing highly proprietary, feature-laden middleware is contracting; in an Android TV environment, middleware development is effectively becoming an exercise in technical systems integration.
Second, as the traditional middleware industry contracts, value that would otherwise derive from middleware design is accruing to UX developers. Android TV is a complete and well-functioning software stack, but at a minimum, service providers must author an app, and in the case of Operator Tier, deploy a custom launcher and home-screen as well. Wyplay’s introducing a UX solution and Android integration services is a product decision and strategic choice with significant precedent: middleware heavyweights Cisco, Ericsson, and Arris have all adapted their portfolios to take advantage of the Android opportunity.