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Will Google Invade Your Television?

by Sean P. Aune | March 21, 2010March 21, 2010 3:58 pm PDT

Google has already infiltrated every aspect of your online life, and it’s working pretty hard and getting a good size chunk of the cellular phone industry in its corner, is the next bold new frontier for the company going to be your living room?

Last week The New York Times ran a report that Google has teamed up with Sony, Intel and Logitech to work on a project that would see the company releasing either a set top box and/or installing equipment into television sets that would bring Google-powered content to your set.  All of the companies named as being involved declined to comment for the story, but the information appears to be pretty solid.

google tv partnersAs reported, the plan is that Google is working on a specialized version of the Android operating system, which would in turn power a new version of its Chrome browser.  All of this would be running on top of an Intel Atom chip and involve a Logitech remote that would have a built-in keyboard for easier access.  Sony is involved in that it wants to add Internet content to its sets, so apparently it would be first company to integrate this Frankenstein-style creation into its televisions.

So, with so many big names behind it, what exactly would this new creation deliver into your living rooms?  Apparently the reason for deciding to go with Android as the operating system is to ease the possibility of applications being built for it. Using various APIs (application programming interface), you could see just about any of your favorite Web services delivered to your television in an program built specifically for it. YouTube would be a given since Google owns it, but imagine the possibilities of a Hulu app finally delivering its wealth of content to your TV without the need of a hooking up a computer.  You could be checking your Twitter and Facebook accounts while watching your favorite football team, or maybe you want to see which of your friends on Foursquare have checked in at the sports bar so you can opt to go there instead.  Essentially the number of potential integrations are endless.

Many TV manufacturers have been trying to pull this off for some time now, but it has never been an open source style project before, meaning that the selection of Web services that made the crossover have been limited at best.  This would have the potential of essentially putting nearly the entire Internet into your TV.

While no price was discussed as all of the companies are mum on this project currently, Anthony Wood, founder and chief executive of Roku, told the newspaper that he felt it would be somewhere in the range of $200 due to the chip it would take to run it.  That could be a major stumbling block for the project if it means adding $200 to the cost of a TV, or being a separate device people need to purchase.

Then there is also the issue of yet another device sitting out near your TV.  I don’t know about you, but the area around my TV is already crowded with all the various Blu-ray/TiVo/Roku/Xbox 360 type equipment surrounding it.  Adding another set top box might just make me cringe.

Where I think this entire story gets the most intriguing is when you think about the prospects of how Apple might choose to respond.  As we all know, Apple views the Apple TV as a “hobby”, but the company also seems to want to do everything it can to annoy Google lately.  Could we see the company suddenly get very interested in working on the device again just as a means to thwart Google?  I wouldn’t put it past them, and while some people have already speculated that maybe the iPhone OS could be added to the device to bring applications to it, I would think that would be a distinct possibility now with Google going the Android route.

There is currently no known timetable for this thus far unconfirmed device, but the companies are said to have been working on it for several months already.  If true, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Holiday 2010 launch, or at the very latest an announcement at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.

Do I think it will actually happen?  Do you think Google doesn’t want to be serving ads to you in yet another venue?  Of course it’s going to do something with TV at some point, and this may just finally be it.


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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