Having conquered much of the Internet, it seems only logical for Google to try to take over television, too. But the Google TV platform unveiled at the firm’s annual I/O developers’ conference in San Francisco yesterday could face many problems.
The goal of the platform, said senior product manager Rishi Chandra, is to offer the “best of what TV has to offer today, and the best of what the Web has to offer today.” However, closer analysis of what is known about Google TV so far suggests that the firm has some work to do if its new platform is to live up to that promise.
Google TV consists of a modified version of the open-source Android mobile phone operating system. It’s designed to run on Internet-connected set-top boxes and high-definition televisions. The platform was developed in collaboration with Sony, Logitech, and chipmaker Intel, which is supplying relatively powerful Atom processors–chips already used in some laptop computers–for Google TV hardware. The hardware announced so far consists of two kinds of devices: Sony televisions and a set-top box made by Logitech. Both will be available in Best Buy stores in the fall.
Google TV users will be able to search for video by typing on a wireless keyboard, or speaking into a connected Android mobile phone. Results could include live TV broadcasts, places to view the show online like Netflix or Amazon, or future broadcasts to be set to record on DVR. Google TV devices will also run the Chrome browser and will be able to play Flash video from across the Web.
One problem for Google TV, however, will be integration with other TV equipment. It will be easy to make the most of Google TV if you’re a subscriber to pay-TV satellite provider Dish Network. This company has partnered with Google to make a custom Internet protocol to control its satellite box and DVR equipment–a single click will take you from a search result to a live broadcast, or set the DVR to record.
“I went to see the Logitech demo, and with the Dish Network, the experience is very smooth,” says Colin Dixon, an analyst at TDG Research. “With a different provider, some of the value is going to be lost.” Without the new type of link developed for a Dish box, the integration with other hardware won’t be quite so slick. The Logitech box will relay commands to other devices via an infrared repeater.