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Google debuts Google TV with Sony and Intel

May 20, 2010 | 11:19 am

Google Inc. wants to bring the Internet to your television screen.

The Internet giant unveiled a new platform called Google TV that it says "will change the future of television" during the company's developer conference Thursday 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.

Google TV will be available on television sets, Blu-ray players and companion set-top boxes through partnerships with Intel Corp. and Sony Corp. Special “input devices” will include a keyboard and remote-control-type pointing device.

The first devices will be available in the fall in time for the holiday shopping season.

“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 that Google offered of what consumers can do with 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.

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. Intel is putting its Atom processors in the devices.

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.

-- Jessica Guynn and Dawn Chmielewski

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