Google has partnered with Intel and Sony to create Google TV, an ambitious attempt to bake its Android software into TVs, Blu-ray players, and a Google set-top box called Buddy Box. Google TV is clearly a challenge to Apple TV, the Boxee Box, TiVo and to some extent cable itself. The goal is to fuse 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.
Google TV will be available in set-top boxes and televisions this fall, with Sony and Logitech as hardware partners. For now, 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, including Hulu, Amazon and Netflix. You can always jump back into live TV with the press of a button.
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.
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 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.
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 Thursday. There's no word 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 is a short video from Google introducing Google TV.