Yesterday brought us not only the official announcement of Froyo, but also that of Google TV. To quote from Google directly “Google TV is a new experience for television that combines the TV that you already know with the freedom and power of the Internet.”
Release date and partners
Lets start with the most important question — when can you have it. The answer is sometime this fall; Google has stated that it will be available initially on a companion box from Logitech and select Blu-ray players and TVs from Sony. Best Buy is going to be carrying this hardware nationwide, so you shouldn’t have a hard time tracking down something running Google TV. Just in case you would like to be the first on your block to bring Google TV home you can sign up here for updates.
Intel and Dish Network are also early partners in the project with Intel bringing their processor to power things along and Dish Network promising a high level of integration through their existing HD DVR boxes this fall (although you still need a Google TV device connected via HDMI). Hardware specs beyond the Intel CE4100 Atom processor that have been confirmed so far include WiFi, HDMI, USB, LAN, S/PDIF and IR blasters.
OS and apps
Android 2.1 is behind the wheel of Google TV with a couple new tricks up its sleeve including the full Chrome Browser and Flash 10.1 support. Not surprisingly as it is Google the basic interface is heavily search oriented, but running on an Android and Chrome base opens Google TV up to app development and Google will be releasing the Google TV SDK and web APIs “soon after launch.” Apps that are scheduled to be available out of the box are Google Listen, Netflix, and Amazon Video on Demand.
Whatever content you receive through your provider will be available to you through Google TV, but that is then augmented by all of the web content out there. YouTube demoed a “leanback” version that offers what is intended to be a more living room friendly experience. As mentioned above Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand will be on board. The full Chrome browser with Flash 10.1 of course opens you up to the content library of the entire Internet.
The big question mark that everyone is buzzing about is whether Hulu will block access to Google TV which considering their past history seems entirely possible and would of course take a large swath of desirable video with it. On the other hand if Hulu is enabled through either an app or the browser and their subscription service hits with a reasonable backlog of episodes we could finally be looking at a replacement for a cable or satellite subscription.
At least in the case of the Logitech companion box you can use your Android phone (or iPhone which they inexplicably use in the demo video from Engadget embedded below) to control the entire experience which as they say basically makes your phone replace a $400 standalone Logitech Harmony remote. That is definitely a compelling feature as I have always been too cheap to shell out a few hundred bucks for a remote. Logitech also indicated that a keyboard would be available with their companion box, but no indication yet from the others on input solutions.
While we are on the subject of cost unfortunately everyone seemed to be silent on the matter. No word from any of the partners as to what a “with Google TV” companion box, Blu-ray player or TV will set you back.
As Google acknowledged early in their intro for Google TV, many have tried to succeed in this space including major players like Microsoft and Apple, and to varying degrees all have failed. Google believes that they have managed a level of integration that critically does not pull users out of their existing comfortable TV experience, but instead simply enhances it.
That certainly sounds compelling and as someone who was eagerly awaiting the Boxee Box this summer I think they have at least sold me on holding off until the fall to see whether Google TV manages to deliver on this promise.
Based on what you have seen or heard so far does Google TV sound like the solution that is finally going to bridge the gap between TV and the Internet for you?
If you want to OD on all things Google TV you can find Google’s animated intro for Google TV, the keynote introduction, and finally a demonstration of the Logitech companion box all below.