Couch potatoes rejoice: Google is coming to a TV set near you. The company announced today it’s entering the crowded TV space in an effort to help you find content you want to watch, when you want to watch it.
At the Google I/O developer conference today, Google showcased its upcoming Google TV. The company hopes to organize the enormous amount of video content available today and make it easier for viewers to find content.
Partnering with Sony and Logitech, Google will launch an Internet and wi-fi enabled set-top box that can connect to a TV with an HDMI cable. Some TVs will also come with the software pre-installed.
When you turn on the TV, viewers will notice the set-top box comes with Google Chrome (the company’s web browser) installed. Viewers will use a keyboard and “pointing device” to flip through channels and find video. When you turn on the TV, you’ll see a search bar that allows you to search for video content from both television and the Web. The set-top box can also be used to create customized menus, watch TV or record it for later.
What makes this announcement particularly important from a competitive standpoint, however, is Google’s integration of content in addition to just video; Google TV allows users to browse through television channels, websites, apps, shows and movies.
“This opens up your TV from a few hundred channels to millions of channels of entertainment across TV and the web,” said Google TV Product Manager, Salahuddin Choudhary, in a blog post. “Your television is also no longer confined to showing just video. With the entire Internet in your living room, your TV becomes more than a TV — it can be a photo slideshow viewer, a gaming console, a music player and much more.”
Google says four billion people worldwide watch TV, and the average American spends five hours per day doing so. The company also notes how a lot of people are increasingly spending time consuming entertainment on their phones and computers. Google says Google TV will offer the best of both the Web and TV worlds in one place.
“Already know the channel or program you want to watch?” Choudhary asks. “Just type in the name and you’re there. Want to check out that funny YouTube video on your 48” flat screen? It’s just a quick search away. If you know what you want to watch, but you’re not sure where to find it, just type in what you’re looking for and Google TV will help you find it on the web or on one of your many TV channels. If you’d rather browse than search, you can use your standard program guide, your DVR or the Google TV home screen, which provides quick access to all of your favorite entertainment so you’re always within reach of the content you love most.”
In addition to making the TV web-enabled, Google TV is also integrated with smartphones and the Android Market. That means Google TV can be controlled using smartphones and speech recognition. Furthermore, Google TV can run any Android app that doesn’t require phone-specific hardware. The result: Apps such as Twitter or Facebook will work on your television.
The company has also inked some important partnerships to ensure the service hits the ground running.
“We’re working together with Sony and Logitech to put Google TV inside of televisions, Blu-ray players and companion boxes,” Choudhary said. “These devices will go on sale this fall, and will be available at Best Buy stores [across the U.S.].”
In addition to hardware partnerships, Google has signed deals with organizations like Netflix and the NBA to provide optimized Web content allowing viewers to connect to online schedules, DVR programming and suggested programming lists.
Finally, the biggest part of this launch is arguably the announcement that Google will provide developers with a software development kit so they can build rich applications and distribute them to Google TV users via the Android Market.
This open market for television works similar to how Apple allows developers to build apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. The end result: TV viewers will get a myriad of new features and content that can be updated comfort of one’s couch.