News

Google Dives Into TV

5/24/2010 11:47 AM Eastern

Google, the most powerful Internet
company on the planet, has a lock on
Web search. Its Android platform for phones
is rampaging through the wireless industry.
Next in its crosshairs: television.

Google — in one of the most ambitious
efforts ever to marry the TV with the Internet
— last week detailed an initiative to create
a new class of Web-savvy products and
services for television sets with partners including
Dish Network, Sony Electronics, Best
Buy, Logitech and Intel.

The Internet search giant’s Google TV
project comprises a software “stack,” along
with a hardware reference design, aimed at
letting consumer-electronics makers, pay
TV service providers, content owners, apps
developers and others create new ways to
search and discover content on the TV.

The Google TV platform is based on the company’s
Android operating system and Chrome
browser. The open-source software is designed
to provide an integrated search across traditional
TV programming and Web content, including
the millions of clips on YouTube.

Essentially, Google’s idea is to strip away
the guide from a subscriber’s current cable,
satellite or telco provider and replace it with
its own Internet-friendly interface.

“We’ve been waiting a long, long time for
today,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at the
company’s I/O developers conference. “It’s
much harder to marry a 50-year-old technology
with a brand-new technology than many
of us in the new technology area thought.”

The real challenge for Google is whether
ordinary TV viewers will find the Google TV
promise of a richer video experience compelling
enough to hook up an additional device
to their television sets, said Jonathan
Hurd, director at Altman Vilandrie & Co., a
Boston-based media and technology consulting
firm.

“The value-added of those devices for your
average consumer is low in comparison to
just accessing some of these services on my
PC,” Hurd said.

But Dish Network, for one, claims that
bringing the Web into a tighter embrace with
the TV will give it a competitive leg up. The
company has an “exclusive relationship” in
the satellite-TV category to offer Google TV
features to subscribers. This fall, the satellite
operator plans to integrate support for
the Google TV software in all its HD DVR
receivers, to let users connect devices via an
HDMI cable.

“We always felt good business is giving
our customers what they want, or what
they may not know they want,” Charlie Ergen,
Dish’s chairman and CEO, said at the
Google event.

For other providers, at least initially,
Google TV devices will connect using an
HDMI cable and will control a cable, satellite
or telco set-top box using a separate “IR
blaster.” The Google boxes will use Wi-Fi to
communicate with
input devices, such
as keyboards and remote
controls.

With Dish, Google
developed an Internet
protocol that will
talk to the operator’s
HD DVRs to provide
a higher level of integration
— for example,
to let users
set DVR recordings
from the Google
guide.

Dish and Google,
which also have a
deal for Google to
sell Dish’s local ad
inventory, said they
began working together
more than a year ago. The companies
beta-tested the technology with more than
400 of their employees, and feedback from
that trial was used to develop Google TV.

Rishi Chandra, group product manager
for Google TV, said at the I/O conference that most existing approaches to bringing
Web content to the television have failed for
three reasons: They try to “dumb down” the
Web for TV; they’re closed; or they don’t integrate
traditional TV with the Web.

“What Google TV does is take the best of
what TV offers today and the best of what the
Web offers today,” he said.

Google TV has already integrated with
Amazon’s video-on-demand service and
Netflix’s Internet-streaming feature. “For a
user, it doesn’t matter where I get my content,”
Chandra said. “The Web becomes a
natural extension of the TV itself.”

Among the demos Google staged: an Android
mobile phone with voice recognition
paired with a Google TV device. When the
presenter spoke “Good Morning America
into the phone, the system tuned to the live
TV show. The company also showed off the
ability to push YouTube clips to the TV using
an Android device.

In addition, Google execs previewed “You-
Tube Lean-Back,” a personalized version of
the service for Google TV that plays a continuous
video stream based on a user’s interests
or keywords.

BOX BUDDIES

Google TV’s initial partners:

Dish Network: Will upgrade HD DVRs to connect with Google TV devices

Sony: Plans to introduce a Google-enabled “Sony Internet TV,” featuring both a standalone
TV model and set-top box-type unit incorporating a Blu-ray Disc drive, in the fall
of 2010

Logitech: Expects to ship a Google TV controller and keyboard in 2010

Best Buy: To carry Google TV devices at retail

Intel: Atom CE4100 microprocessors will be used by both Sony and Logitech

Adobe Systems: Flash 10.1 is incorporated into the Google TV platform

SOURCE: Google

September