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Summary:

Maybe it isn’t just a tablet OS after all: The next version of Google TV will be based on Honeycomb, the Android version that currently only powers a few select Android slates. Google also aims to improve its TV platform with apps and cheaper hardware.

android-honeycomb-logo

The next iteration of Google TV will be based on Honeycomb, the most recent version of Google’s Android operating system, NewTeeVee has learned from sources close to the project. Developers attending the Google I/O conference in San Francisco next week may be able to catch a first glimpse of Google TV 2.0, but there won’t be any big announcements, and the overhauled platform won’t be released until later this year.

Google TV was introduced with much fanfare a year ago at Google I/O. However, there were early indicators that conquering the living room might be more challenging than the company had anticipated. The keynote that was supposed to show off Google’s vision of combining the web and TV content was plagued with technical problems, and Google executives couldn’t exactly say at the time whether content from the popular Hulu broadcast TV service would be available on the device.

When Google TV devices from Sony and Logitech were finally introduced in fall, the problems continued. Not only was Hulu not available, but virtually all major broadcast networks blocked access to their web content on the device as well. Most reviewers deemed Google TV too complicated, and consumer interest was lukewarm at best. Recently, Logitech reported that it only sold $5 million worth of Google TV hardware in the first three months of this year

Google now wants to address these problems with a completely revamped version that will offer a variety of tweaks to make content easier to find as well as make the devices cheaper. For example, Google TV 2.0 will have access to the Android Market, making it possible for users to install applications much like they can today on Android phones. Apps that bring additional services and content to Google TV devices could be crucial to make the case for Google’s vision of its TV platform. Company representatives have long said Google TV isn’t about replacing, but adding additional content and functionality to cable and other traditional TV services.

The company is also aiming to make Google TV devices cheaper by adding support for additional chip sets. The first generation of Google TV devices exclusively used Intel processors, which had some consumer electronics manufacturers complain about high costs. The next version of Google TV will almost certainly also run on devices with ARM-based processors, which should make it possible to produce significantly cheaper devices.

Using the Honeycomb version of the Android operating system seems to be the final piece of the puzzle in Google’s attempts to give its TV platform a fresh start. The operating system has up until now only been available on select Android tablets. Google hasn’t released the Honeycomb source code yet and hasn’t announced any smart phones running Honeycomb yet either, with company representatives saying that the platform was initially optimized for tablets only.

However, many of the key features of Honeycomb could also benefit Google TV. The OS utilizes a more powerful graphics engine for 3-D animations, something that could come in handy for developers trying to make their apps visually compelling on a TV screen. Honeycomb’s emphasis on smarter widgets also comes in handy on TV devices, and its handling of application fragments could help to combine information presented by apps and live TV signals in a more compelling way.

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  1. Wake me up when Android 3.1 is released. GoogleTV is a joke.

  2. If true, then Google really is a joke. The Android marketplace was promised in early 2011. Now we may have to wait until the holiday season for it, or any other improvements, to arrive. It’s one thing to pay $300 to be a beta tester. It’s a whole different matter when Google flat-out lies to its customers about promised functionality.

  3. Lucian Armasu Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Google should’ve never released Google TV for Intel chips anyway. What were they thinking? Didn’t they know consumers won’t pay $300 for a set top box?

    Besides getting video content ready for it, they also need to make Google TV a strong console play, and getting Android developers to make Android games for Google TV. But this time, all this should be available on *launch day*, and not repeat the mistake with Honeycomb for tablets when they only had 16 apps at launch. They need to have a ton of them to show its potential.

  4. 3 things Google TV needs:

    1. Support ARM Processors, to be in the sub-$100 box. Even run a full Google TV UI “mode” from the HDMI output of every new Android smartphone, expect Google TV to become a part of Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich. How can Google add HDMI-in to future Smartphones? Maybe they do some trick with another cheap $40 HDMI pass-through box with IR blaster to connect between any Cable/Satellite box, your Android Smartphone’s HDMI output and the HDTV.

    2. Support apps like BitTorrent/RSS, Seedbox management with SFTP, Rapidshare/Megaupload streaming, make it the easiest way to pirate all movies and TV shows with a remote control on the TV.

    3. Unlock Desktop User Agent in the Flash plugin. The only reason TV websites can block Google TV is because of the Flash plugin not hiding itself as a Flash-for-Desktop user agent. It’s only a question of Adobe and Google making the decision (if the rights holders keep blocking them), they can make Google TV unblockable. Even make it easy to sign up for fast and reliable proxy services all over the world if certain online web TV are being region blocked (make it easy for the world to stream US based Hulu/Netflix/Viacom/etc, UK based BBC, French based France Television, etc..).

  5. GoogleTV will continue to fail in the livingroom and here’s why:

    1) Complexity. If consumers can’t grasp the concept of GoogleTV beforehand then it won’t be concuring anything, much less the livingroom.

    2) With everyone buying up iPads and smart phones and other tablets today, it would have made more sense for Google to target these devices first and relegate TVs as just a screen to beam content. It’s much easier to use a tablet or smart phone (or any multitouch device) to navigate the web and to find content to watch than to use a clunky keyboard with pc-like mouse pointer for navigation on the screen. Find something interesting, send it to one of the TVs in the house and continue using the tablet device for web searching, twitter, apps etc.

    I think If the rumors are true about Apple licensing Airplay to TV manufacturers to incorporate into sets, it would truly show the way to concur the living-rooms. As we can see with the recent trend of networks and providers getting their content on iPads and iPhones, and shunning GoogleTV. All users would need to do is send that app or (HBO Go) to the Airplay capable device around the house. It does not get any easier than that in the living-room for gen consumers.

  6. scott fletcher Friday, May 6, 2011

    Google TV is awesome. I’m glad I bought it (Logitech Revue). It’s only version 1 and Google didn’t say it would be all bells & whistles, people were wrong to assume that and they should have know it takes a while to evolve. Android phone went through the same thing as version 1 back then and look how great it is now. Suck that app market is still not there yet. Visio and Samsung now have hop on board, so do ARM. Google TV will be a better product as it continue to evolve. Have some patience.

    1. I like my Google TV. I am able to watch netflix, youtube video (and youtube movies). Getting the market will help and is needed for more people to get the unit. Watching vacation pictures and listing to Pandora is wonderful.

  7. Vamshi Sriperumbudur Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Good post Janko!
    I am gung-ho on Google TV (2.0) if these 3C’s are addressed..
    Cost, Complexity, and Content.
    i.e., under $99 per box, Roku-like ease of use (simple remote for mainstream user, keyboard can be optional – for tech savvy), all the good content you mentioned and maybe some original content?
    Looking fwd to announcements next week at Google I/O.

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