If there’s one entertainment device that people know and love, it’s the television. In fact, 4 billion people across the world watch TV and the average American spends five hours per day in front of one, according to the Nielsen, Three Screen Report, Fourth Quarter 2009. And now search giant Google wants to bring the Internet to your Tv screen.
The announcement of the Google TV:
The Internet giant unveiled a new platform called Google TV that it says “will change the future of television” during the the second day of its I/O developer conference in San Francisco. Google is putting its Android software and Chrome Web browser on television and other home entertainment devices in an attempt to succeed where others have struggled: in merging television and the Internet.
“As other technologies have evolved and changed, TV has remained the same,” Rishi Chandra, the project leader, told 5,000 developers gathered for the conference in San Francisco. “Video should be consumed on the biggest, best and brightest screen in the house and that is a TV.”
Google is pitching its new platform as an easy way to search for television programming and Internet content without having to navigate slow on-screen directories. Instead users can pull down a search box to find what they are looking for on television and the Web.
Search for “House” and you get all the episodes available on USA and Fox as well as on Hulu.com and for purchase on Amazon.com. That way, the TV becomes “a natural extension of the Web itself,” Chandra said.
Some examples of Google TV: If you miss the State of the Union speech, you can search for it on Google TV, find it on Whitehouse.gov and play the video on your television. You can put an NBA game in picture-in-picture mode and check out the box score while you are watching. During “American Idol,” you can follow discussion about the show on Twitter. Users can also watch YouTube videos on their televisions, even beaming them to the screen from their Android phone.
Under the hood of the Google Tv Devices:
Sony will sell HDTVs and Blu-ray players with Google TV capabilities, while Logitech will sell a companion box that can be hooked into existing hardware. All three devices will be sold at Best Buy stores nationwide. Pricing information was not revealed. The first devices will be available in the fall in time for the holiday shopping season.
It remains to be seen if consumers who have shown little interest in surfing the Web on their televisions will be persuaded to buy the new Google TV-equipped Bravia televisions and Blu-ray players that connect to the Internet. Google will also have to persuade other television manufacturers to follow Sony’s leads.
The Sony and Logitech Google TV devices will be powered by an Intel Atom processor. During a question and answer session with partners, Intel chief executive Paul Otellini said the chip is a “version of Atom” that includes “specialized circuitry” around the Atom to optimize TV viewing.
On the software side, Google TV has three main components, said Rishi Chandra, a Google product manager. First, the service will initially run Android 2.1, though it will eventually be upgraded over-the-air. Not surprisingly, the browser is Chrome, and lastly, Google TV will include Flash 10.1.
The mobile version of Android Market will work on Google TV. Apps currently in the market should work on Google TV if they do not require phone-specific hardware, Chandra said.
Google called on developers to start prepping Google TV-ready apps. Google will release the Android Market with over-the-air updates as well as the Google TV SDK and TV Web APIs in early 2011, Chandra said. By summer 2011, the company will open source the Google TV platform into the Android and Chrome source trees.
Google Android 2.2 or “Froyo”:
Google TV was not the only announcement on the conference. The company also officially unveiled the next version of its mobile platform, Android 2.2, or “Froyo.”
Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google, said that Android now gets 100,000 daily activations, up from 60,000 per day in February and 30,000 last year. Thursday’s release promises a speed bump of two to five times, Gundotra added. It also includes enterprise-level features, tethering, support for the new Flash Player 10.1, and an “update all” feature for apps.
Google has also enabled tethering and portable hotspots with Android 2.2. Having multiple devices “shouldn’t mean added complexity and yet another bill,” Gundotra said. “You should, at the platform level, be able to enable tethering.” The company also promised a speed bump in the browser. “We can claim that Froyo has the world’s fastest mobile browser.”
Google vs. Apple:
The Internet giant, which is looking to expand beyond its lucrative online advertising business, is betting that more consumers will want to buy televisions that can connect to the Internet. ABI Research Inc. says demand for such sets is rising with the popularity of Internet content and estimates that 46% of flat-panel televisions will have Internet connections by 2013, up from 19% this year.
But analysts say Google will have to succeed where many, including Apple Inc., have tried and struggled. Apple TV, launched in 2007, is a set-top box that displays content from the Internet and iTunes on televisions. Apple has called it a “hobby,” saying the number of units sold are “still small.”
Google dominates the $60.4-billion online advertising market but has yet to make inroads in other mass media. It has broadened its reach into smart-phones through its Android mobile operating system. There it’s surpassed Apple as the top operating system on U.S. smart-phones.
It’s betting that its expertise in managing and sorting large amounts of information will help consumers navigate the vast amounts of video and other Internet content to view on their televisions.That would position Google to deliver advertising based on what a viewer does on the Web while watching television. The company has begun to target the market with a nascent ad-brokering business called Google TV, which is an online auction similar to its search business.
Blending television and the Internet has long been a goal for Google. Google is conducting a limited test of a television search service with Dish Network Corp. which allows users to search programming on the Internet. Google has been in the TV ad business since 2007, but has yet to generate any material revenue or break into a major role.
Cable and satellite companies may prefer to figure out ways to better target advertising themselves. Cable companies have formed Canoe Ventures, a consortium that plans to target based on demographics. [Google Tv and Google Blog via Reuters, Business Insider and PC Mag]