Google has unveiled its plans for Google TV which will bring video content from the web as well as conventional broadcast television to the living room.
Google has teamed up with several technology companies to make the plan happen. At a demonstration at Google’s developer conference in San Francisco, Eric Schmidt, chief executive, received strong industry backing for the service as he was joined on stage by the heads of Adobe, BestBuy, Dish Network, Intel, Logitech and Sony.
Competitors have had limited success trying to merge the Internet and TV in the past, but Google, together with Sony and electronics firms Logitech and Intel, appear to have overcome the problems. Google said it would launch a service in the autumn that includes Google Search and merges applications and a web browser with television programming through a set-top box or integrated TV.
Google project senior product manager Rishi Chandra said, “Video should be consumed on the biggest, best and brightest screen in the house. And that’s a TV. It’s not a PC or a phone or anything else in between. Our goal is to make the same impact on television as the smart phone has had on the mobile phone market.”
Sony is to launch a line-up of televisions and Blu-ray players in the autumn that will include Google’s Android operating system and Chrome browser, powered by Intel’s Atom chip. Logitech plans to introduce a set-top box with a remote control and integrated keyboard at the same time.
Intel said last week that it had seen explosive demand for its Atom microprocessors from set-top box and TV makers and Paul Otellini, chief executive, described the advent of “Smart TV” as the biggest broadcast revolution since the introduction of colour.
“The Google, Sony and Logitech relationship is the earliest, deepest and best we’ve seen so far,” Otellini told reporters yesterday. “What I see in the pipeline are other versions, but they don’t have the deep integration of the web and broadcast that this content has, so we’re super excited.” Meanwhile Brian Dunn, Best Buy chief executive, told a news conference, “I think there is going to be an enormous consumer appetite . . . it opens up an entirely new category.”
The new televisions will allow users to watch their favourite YouTube videos, update Facebook or watch conventional broadcasts all in one unit, the price of which has yet to be announced.
Sir Howard Stringer, president of Sony, said its Bravia internet video link for its TVs would be maintained, but Google TV was the future. While he acknowledged Sony lacked exclusivity with the technology, he said, “We have about a six-month lead [over our competitors], we are the first out of the box and it’s up to us to take advantage otherwise everyone else will have a chance to develop a system similarly.”
While consumers will be excited by the announcement, some companies will be concerned. Shares in Tivo, which sells DVRs and licenses its programme guide software, fell 6 percent on the news. Apple and Yahoo may also be fuming at Google’s success in merging technologies. Both companies have both tried to join the web to the television but without much success.
Some TVs on the market currently offer access to the internet through set-top boxes via cable or satellite but with a limited choice of sites. Yahoo!’s Connected TV platform allows access to certain websites such as eBay and Facebook but it has not broken into the mainstream.
Notably, Google TV will include support for Adobe Systems’ new Flash Player 10.1. “Google TV customers have access to the full web,” Adobe’s Aditya Bansod wrote on a company blog. “This includes the approximately 75 percent of online videos and web games that use Flash, the vast numbers of rich Internet applications, and content across social networks.”
Adobe has won support from Google for the Flash platform at the same time it has been squabbling with Apple, the Cupertino maker of Mac computers and “i” devices, which has banned Flash from the iPhone and iPad.