Google is headed for your TV, but not just yet

Australian Macworld staff
26 May, 2010
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TV fans in the US had some good news with the announcement of Google TV last week, however, it has been confirmed that in Australia and the rest of the world, we’ll be waiting a little longer for the service.

Google has partnered with Intel and Sony to create Google TV. It’s an ambitious attempt to bake its Android software into TVs, Blu-ray players, and a Google set-top box called Buddy Box. The platform is clearly a challenge to Apple TV, TiVo, and to some extent, cable itself, with a goal of fusing the web with televisions in a way that other internet-connected TVs don’t. That is, Google TV is an open platform free of restrictions and powered by hardware that can handle Flash.

While Google TV will be available later this year in set-top boxes (made by Logitech) and televisions (made by Sony), plans for an Australian launch are not so clear.

Speaking via video-link at a Google I/O event in Sydney yesterday, Rishi Chandra discussed Google’s plans for the device. While the company is focused on the US for 2010, Google TV will likely go international in 2011. And right now, the company is determining which countries to target next. “We want to have the broadest impact,” said Chandra. “Obviously the user need is global. It’s not specific to the US.”

Chandra articulated that they are looking to take Google TV international as soon as possible, but a variety of factors need to be considered: from collecting the EPG (electronic program guide) data for different regions to satisfying the different regulatory requirements of each country.

To whet your appetite for an arrival sometime in the next couple of years, let’s look at the key features of Google TV:

Web and subscription TV merge

Google wants to avoid a sharp distinction between web content and traditional television from cable or satellite. When you search for a show in Google TV you see options for television and web, the latter option taking you to a screen that lists all online episodes and sources. You can always jump back into live TV with the press of a button.

Flash support

The obvious application for Flash is web video, but Google promises that Flash support will allow Google TV to play games such as Farmville and streaming music sites such as Pandora. Unfortunately Google didn’t demonstrate these applications, so we’ll have to see whether they work as promised.

One remote

Demonstrators used big keyboards to navigate Google TV, and stressed that only one input device will be necessary. It’s not clear what the actual remotes will look like, but I’ll bet Logitech and Sony will have their own designs.

Talks to Android phones

Google TV has a couple of features specifically for Android phone owners: instead of typing in television search queries, you can dictate them into the phone, and the request is sent to the television by Wi-Fi. Also, if you’re watching a video on the phone, you can send it to the television.

Android app support

In addition to tapping the web for content, Google TV will work with any Android app that doesn’t use phone features. Google only showed Pandora as a demonstration, but hopefully games and other media will run smoothly on the big screen.

The hardware

Televisions equipped with Google TV technology will have Ethernet and Wi-Fi capabilities. One-click DVR recording will be available on boxes from the Dish network, another partner announced last week.

There’s no word yet on pricing or specific products. Sony says it plans to offer Google TV on some of its Bravia TV sets as well as Blu-ray players. Google says those who want to add Google TV to existing television sets will be able to buy a Google set-top box called a Buddy Box that will bring the service to any TV.

Here’s a short video from Google introducing Google TV.

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