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.