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Did NVIDIA do the right thing by holding back Oreo for the Shield TV?

NVIDIA's Shield TV is one of those rare things that are still "best in class" years after they were released. It has plenty of competition, but if you want the best multi-purpose set-top TV box you can get, it's hard not to recommend the Shield TV. It has you covered whether you want to listen to music, watch a movie or show, or grab a controller and game the night away. I chalk that up to two things — the hardware inside it and the software support from NVIDIA. Considering that, as strange as it sounds NVIDIA is doing the right thing by holding back its Oreo update.

Smart TVs need to be able to show you what's on that you'll like; that's where the smart part comes in.

I have a feeling that anyone familiar with the Shield TV who knows how and why this all started is going to agree. And the how and the why this started happen to be the important parts.

A quick refresher here. Back at CES 2018, NVIDIA's director of Shield management, Chris Daniel, went on record saying that the product was still doing well, the U.S. retail market for it is going to be expanded, NVIDIA has plans to bring it to new countries in 2018, and that while NVIDIA certainly plans to bring Oreo to the Shield TV, there is no time frame and no rush. NVIDIA's not happy with the interface and is working with Google to change whatever needs changing. That's a pretty bold statement towards the company who built the actual software, but Daniels is right on and explains it all in one sentence.

If you release a whole new interface, and the apps aren't supporting it, then we don't feel like it's a good launch for us, so we're working hard on that.

That's the Oreo interface for Android TV. Android TV is like Android Wear (except it's good) or Chrome OS (but not that good) when it comes to vendor (that'd be the company who has its name printed on the package) customization. Google learned a valuable lesson with Android, namely that other companies will twist everything and anything until it no longer resembles the original, then fill the storage with crap apps and duplicates and whatever garbage the highest bidder wants them to put in there. While that helps companies sell $150 Android phones they never need to update, it also means the user interface is whatever that same company wants it to be.

Companies like NVIDIA can't just change the user interface on an Android TV box.

The new "home screen" interface for Android TV, called the What's Next interface by those that love it and built it, is pretty smart. Unlike your phone and the hundreds of apps installed that you can use for anything at any time, there are a few things most people do with Android on a television. Entertainment is the focus and using Google's (sometimes) smart AI to expose a show or movie or anything you'll want to see next is genius. Until it's not.

Notice the screenshot above and you'll see a pattern — it's all Netflix. That's great for Netflix, but what about HBO or NBC or Amazon (especially Amazon because the Shield TV has an exclusive and awesome Amazon streaming video app)? You could think it's because there isn't anything worth watching on any of those "networks" and maybe you're right, but the reason is that their Android TV apps haven't been updated to tie into the new interface. Even if your all-time favorite movie just finished and the 5-star-rated sequel (did anyone ever make a Strange Brew 2, eh?) is ready to stream from Amazon, you won't see it listed as a recommendation because it can't hook inside the screen you're looking at. That's just a bad user experience all around.

NVIDIA can't change up the landing screen for Oreo so they are doing the best alternative in their eyes — not updating. And don't think this is a cop-out. NVIDIA loves updating the Shield TV as much as you love getting the updates, which is why you see one almost every month. NVIDIA is doing this because they don't want to wreck the UI on their TV box and make you hate it.

This can be fixed with the right people doing the fixing. And they are.

The good news is that they are working with Google to find a solution. Neither company can force developers to update their apps to support the Oreo interface, but they can get a bunch of smart people in the same room and figure something out. Chances are whatever the two companies come up with will be good for everyone — Google, NVIDIA, developers, and us. In the meantime, you can still use your Shield TV without working your way through individual app program guides or missing out on something you'll wish you hadn't.

And when nothing good is on, there's always Borderlands 2 (opens in new tab).

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

19 Comments
  • Whether the decision is right or wrong, NVIDIA's transparency is great. Kudos to them for making a statement, keeping the emotion out, and getting Google involved in the hopes of continued user experience improvement.
  • NVIDIA is absolutely doing the right thing here. I'd much rather have them hold back and wait as long as possible for significant media apps to update to be compatible with Oreo than to get the update now and have the perception of promoting content from a single provider. Has Google even updated their YouTube and YouTube TV Android TV apps for Oreo???
  • I didn't even know this was happening but I'm glad it is because I love my Shield (just bought it in Nov along with Google Wifi). To me the greatest thing about the Shield is that if I come across a video on my phone or if someone sends me one while I'll watching, I can just cast it to the TV and then kill the cast and go right back to what I was watching.
  • I have a Shield TV and I love it. NVidia has been sending out regular updates (just got new features this week), but I'm glad they're not sending out this one yet. Props, NVidia!
  • I have 3 Android TV boxes - the Nexus, a Mi Box and the NVIDIA Shield 2017. The Shield is by far the favourite, especially because it acts as an SMB server. I hate the Oreo UI on the Nexus, so I'm glad NVIDIA hasn't updated it. There is nothing wrong with the NVIDIA UI and the extra functionality is what really makes it the best media player period.
  • I have the same 3 boxes, and also HATE the Oreo interface on the Nexus Player. So much scrolling or you have to go to another screen to see all your installed apps.Maybe if Google would allow the option to keep the old launcher, then all would be fine.
  • Agreed Oreo is terrible currently for Android TV devices. The concept is good but until apps are compatible it is mess.
  • "It has plenty of competition...." In the Android TV set top space? Where?
  • Type in android tv on Amazon and be prepared for tons of pages of all kinds of units.
  • None of which are Android TV besides the Nexus Player, the Mi Box and the Razer Forge..
  • Then you are blind as a bat, dumb as an ox, or your Amazon search is broken beyond fubar.
  • I'm glad Nvidia is really thinking about the consumer experience and not just marketing speak.
  • If possible I would like that you talk about the missing features in the Nvidia Shield, and I would like that you talk about because are missed features that can be added.
    Support for YouTube HDR (VP9.2)
    AC3 Decoding
    Option to move Plex metadata to another HDD
    Dolby Vision
    HALF (if Possible)
    Fix those (reported in the shield tv forums) Live Channels
    issues
    Add SMB 2/3 support
    Option to turn off HDMI CEC
    Etc
  • I agree and for anyone that says the hardware doesn't support vp9.2 or any other codec, they can alwqys put in a software decoder it has plenty of power to emulate it. On a side note HDMI CEC is able to be turned off through display settings.
  • Shield tv is far from perfect, but since apparently nobody cares about Android TV, it is miles ahead of anything else running Android and calling itself competition. The reasoning behind delaying Oreo is, in my opinion, very good. As a shield tv owner, I am happy to avoid more broken or partially implemented sections to my interface. Dissatisfaction with Android TV aside, I still stand by the shield tv as the absolute best option for a streamer with a remote.
  • I have owned and used daily a first gen Shield TV from the start, couldn't be happier with their support. If they had been Apple they would have slammed shut updates for the first box months ago. Honestly, the whole panic about Oreo seems out of place - this isn't a phone, and most users just want the box to work - it's a media centre, and you just want it to connect you to it and stay out of your way. It does this admirably. At least they're being open about it, and are aggressively working on it. You rarely get this level of support these days unless you embrace walled gardens.
  • At least it has January security patch. How many smartphones can say that? I know a lot of people have beefs with Nvidia, particularly for how expensive their products are ( I have an Nvidia gpu in my gaming pc) but damn if they're stuff is not consistently ahead of the pack. Not surprised at all that Nvidia refuses to put a **** in their android tv box.
  • I think they should update it to Oreo but give you an option to use "Classic" home screen or the "What's Next" home screen. That would not only keep everything the way it is for people but also make it more versatile. This way if developers do eventually want to develop for "What's Next" the option is there.
  • I have both the Nexus player and the shield tv currently and just bought the shield tv to replace it so I can honestly say yes times a thousand! Oreo is trash on Android TV. Only good addition is assistant but Nvidia added that anyway. It's actually a relief to see the old launcher layout again as the Oreo launcher sucks. Aside from that your also gain a lot more instability and for no reason at all Google decided one task at a time is all Android TV is good for and killed multitasking all together, It'll stop playing music if you hit the home button! The nougat multitask menu is gone and instead replaced with an app drawer that comes up from the Launcher because the new layout is so terrible they need an app drawer now! Google completely fumbled this one, and shield works and your missing out on 0 new features, so they can take all the time in the world for all I care.