The Ouya, likely best-known for its meteoric rise in the Kickstarter space, initially shipped with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) as its base operating system. Developer consoles shipped in late 2012, and initial retail units began shipping to Kickstarter backers on March 28th, 2013.
In early 2013, Ouya received backing from sellers such as Gamestop and Amazon.
In January 2014, the Ouya team released a new version of the console with minor modifications to the original. For example, the internal storage is now increased to 16GB.
Ouya distributes games through its own Ouya store. Though an Android device, it is not considered compatible with Google's Android ecosystem and owners will not be able to officially play games they've already downloaded from Android's Google Play app store. However, a recipient of one of the early consoles hinted that an Ouya owner could sideload app APK files onto the Ouya storage via USB connection to a PC, and then run those applications from a Settings & Management menu on the Ouya UI. (This activity was not actually shown in the user's YouTube video.)
As of the initial shipping to backers, the lineup of upcoming software included Fez, Wizorb (which is currently available), Broken Age, and some other high-profile titles. (Much of what is available at the outset boasts titles from smaller developers including ports of existing mobile games such as Canabalt HD.) It was also reported that Ouya will support XBMC for streaming media.
There are conflicting messages about the viability of rooting the Ouya. Rooting, similar to jailbreaking iOS devices, is a common practice among advanced owners of Android devices, and Ouya founder Julie Uhrman mentioned that the process would be simple in the effort to make Ouya as open as possible. However, some XDA community members have pointed to a July 2012 radio interview with Uhrman where she mentioned that rooted Ouyas would not be able to access the Ouya Store, making it difficult for players who both want to purchase Ouya games and have the benefit of a rooted system. There seems to be no up-to-date, definitive answer on how the retail unit responds to or supports rooting.
Ouya's controller mimics today's standard inputs, with two analog sticks, four face buttons, a d-pad, a Home button, twin shoulder buttons and twin triggers. It also includes a central touch panel, similar to what Sony later announced for the PlayStation 4 controller during its unveiling. It does not include a back button.
The Ouya UI includes a "Sandbox" category, which is where games that aren't featured in the top tier of games (the "Featured", "Genre" and other categories on the UI's main screen) go. If you like a game in the sandbox, you can give it a "Thumbs Up", and if the title receives enough of these kudos, it may end up in the top tier for a wider audience to see.