Chrome to Phone, Google TV and the Need for Browsers

Google (s GOOG) announced a new Chrome extension called Chrome to Phone today that makes it easier to send web content to Android 2.2 (Froyo) handsets. Om covered the announcement over at GigaOm, but here’s the gist: The new extension will make Chrome display a special button in the browser address bar to send maps, YouTube videos and entire web pages directly to your phone. Check out the Google promo video embedded below for details.

Om saw this as further proof that “mobile and the cloud will eventually converge,” but for me, it raised an interesting question. If extensions like this one tie together Chrome on your PC and your Android handset, what will be in store on this front for the Android-based Google TV once it launches this fall?

Right now it looks like Chrome to Phone won’t run on the Google TV out of the box, because the extension needs an app that’s exclusive to Android 2.2. Google TV will at least initially be based on Android 2.1.

However, it shouldn’t be too hard to develop a Google TV-specific version that would make it possible to send any content you find online straight to your TV set. Imagine you’re watching TV while browsing your Facebook feed on your laptop. You stumble across a video a friend recommended in your feed, click on a simple TV button in your browser, et voila: The clip shows up full screen on your flat screen.

The idea of the browser as a remote control for your connected TV or set-top box isn’t new. In fact, there have been a number of attempts at using the iPad as a remote control. However, most of these were based on dedicated apps, which force you to switch back and forth between the web and the TV remote — something that is counter-intuitive to the Google TV paradigm of uniting traditional television with the web.

NewTeeVee reader Peter Davias had an idea to take this union one step further after reading our post about Broadcom’s Inconcert Maestro technology this week. Here are his thoughts, as published on his personal blog:

“What is killer would be a Chrome extension (or Firefox add-on) that recognises your laptop is connected to a web enabled TV. On loading a web page with video embedded there is an option to “send” that video direct to the TV for viewing. When the NBA season is in full swing I stream the games through on my PC. I’d like to “send” this stream to the TV for viewing rather than having to fiddle with plugging my laptop in the TV each time.”

Peter’s love for pirated NBA streams aside, the ability to pipe any video content, be it a YouTube clip or a live stream, straight from your browser to the TV would be awesome, and it reflects how we consume media these days. TV makers and platform operators may like the idea of channels and apps that they can treat like traditional programming, allowing users to hop from one channel to the next.

However, in reality, video is much more mashed up and integrated into our online experience, which predominantly happens on the browser. If you really want to capture this, then you need to couple the browser on a user’s laptop, phone or tablet device with the TV — and Chrome to Phone could give us an idea of what this is going to look like.

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