Google (s GOOG) introduced its Android-based Smart TV platform at its Google I/O developer conference today, claiming that the platform will combine the best of the web with the best of TV.
Google TV Product Lead Rishi Chandra and Google TV Technical Director Vincent Dureau demoed the platform on stage, showing that it offers a search box similar to the one featured on Android phones. The duo first did a few searches for live TV content as well as scheduled TV programming, demoing how the platform allowed him to schedule DVR recordings straight form its search results.
He then searched for House, and Google TV returned search results Hulu, Fox.com (s NWS) and Amazon (s AMZN). Clicking on the Amazon search result led to the website of Amazon’s VOD service. The search bar can also be used to directly input Urls and search saved bookmarks. “It’s just as easy to go to any site on the web as it is to go to any channel on your television.”
Here are a few more features:
- Personalization through Netflix (s NFLX) integration
- Picture-in picture mode to access web content and live TV feeds
- Bookmarks for websites as well as TV channels
- Access to web-based media sites like Flickr (s YHOO)
Chandra was fairly blunt about why Google is venturing into the TV space, mentioning that there are four billion TV users worldwide. “For a developer, there is no bigger market than the TV market,” he said. he later alluded to the fact that this is also a huge revenue potential for Google, saying that every TV ad could become interactive by linking to web content and displaying it picture-in-picture.
Google TV will be integrated into TV sets, Blu-ray players and companion set-top boxes. HDMI is used to communicate between Google boxes and existing devices. There’s going to be special input devices that are being developed by hardware partners, but you can also use Android phones for control, where Google Voice Search can be used to query the Google TV search bar. Users can even push YouTube videos and other content straight form their Android device to their TV. The specs for the the Google TV remote control are going to be freely available to third-party developers. Chandra also mentioned that Google developed a special IP protocol to link its upcoming boxes to DISH set-top boxes.
Google TV is built on Android 2.1 and Google Chrome and Flash 10.1. The device will run Android apps, and apps like Pandora that don’t require phone-specific hardware should run TV right out of the box. Users will be able to push apps right from their PC desktop to Google Tv through an upcoming version of the Android Market.
The SDK for Google TV will be made available after product availability. Developers will be able to access SDK functionality straight from web apps, something that Google’s Hunter Walk demoed with a site dubbed YouTube Leanback. The site offered personalized content as well as access to YouTube Rentals. YouTube Leanback will launch within the next few weeks in beta.
In addition to the Google TV platform, Google announced a list of partners for the initiative. Sony (s SNE) will produce a full line of connected television sets that integrate Google TV, as well as a Blu-ray player with the platform available in the fall, and Logitech will be producing a companion set-top box that will enable users to access the platform. All of those products will be powered by Intel (s INTC) Atom chips and will be available through Best Buy (s BBY) retail stores. And Dish Network (s DISH) will have advanced integration with existing set-top boxes.
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