What Does Google Have In Store For The Set-Top Box?

Once again, rumors are making their rounds that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is going to make some sort of set-top box play. The latest: The WSJ reports that the company is working with Dish Network on a new feature that would let users search both TV content and web videos on set-top boxes “using elements of Google’s Android operating system.”

The Dish Network tie-in makes sense, since both companies already have a close relationship on the TV, where Google TV Ads counts Dish Network as one of its primary partners.

But there are some big caveats and unknowns: It’s unlikely that the service will come to market soon, since the WSJ makes a point of emphasizing that the tests are limited for now to a “very small number” of Google employees.

Also, no set-top boxes that run on Android are currently on the market. But as far back as November 2007 there were rumors that Google was working to build an app platform for set-top boxes. Nothing has come of that, although that effort would presumably be related to this one in some way.

If Google did go ahead and launch some sort of ‘Google TV search,’ competitors would include Clicker, the much-hyped (and funded) online video search engine which has deals with set-top boxes like Boxee and popbox, so that users can search Clicker from their TVs.

A Google spokesman said the company does not comment on rumor or speculation.