Google TV Aims to Bring Everything on the Internet to Your TV
Working with partners that will make TVs, set-top boxes and remote-control devices compatible with Google's Android operating system and Chrome browser, the project, called Google TV, will enable consumers to browse and watch all of their favorite Web and TV shows on their TV sets.
"The TV and Web become a single experience," said Rishi Chandra, the Google TV's project leader, at an event in San Francisco to introduce the idea. "The Web is unlimited. Now your TV is unlimited as well."
Watching the Web
With Google TV, viewers will be able to type in search terms at the top of their TV screens and quickly pull up a menu of related TV shows and videos from various TV channels and websites. Aside from videos, Google TV will enable consumers to view all other websites on the tube, including shopping, news, video games and Twitter.
Users will also be able to create a split screen to watch a sports game, for example, while searching the Internet for scores from other games that are taking place at the same time. Google TV will also work with existing DVR recorders and cable boxes, the company says. And because Google TV uses Android, which is currently runs mobile phones, consumers with Android-based phones will be able to send content from their phones to the TV.
"It's a very, very exciting beginning," said Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO (pictured), at the event. "It's much harder to marry a 50-year technology and a brand-new technology than those from the brand-new technology thought."
More Ads From the Tube?
Google, which already generates billions of dollars in annual revenue from Internet advertising, hopes to use Google TV to broaden the audience for serving ads.
The search company has quickly lined up partners to make this foray a reality. Sony (SNE) will make the TVs and Blu-ray players that will come with embedded with Google TV. Logitech (LOGI) is developing a set-top box for those who don't want to buy a new TV and also plans to roll out a remote-control that comes with a keyboard. The TV and set-top boxes will feature the Atom chip from Intel (INTC) and Flash from Adobe Systems (ADBE). Dish Network (DISH) will incorporate Google TV into its DVRs. And Best Buy (BBY) plans to sell all these devices this fall. None of the companies have talked about pricing for their products so far.
Although Google made an impressive presentation, its success is hardly assured. The idea of marrying Web content with TV content isn't new. In fact, a host of tech companies have tried within the last 20 years, but none has been a huge success.
Stream of Failures
Microsoft (MSFT), for example, bought WebTV Networks, an early player in the field. But the Internet was just taking off in the mid-1990s and didn't have the rich array of news, videos and other content, so it's perhaps not surprising that few consumers didn't embrace the idea. Microsoft sold a set-top box and subscription service for a while, but is no longer offering the hardware.
Apple (AAPL) made a splash when it launched Apple TV in 2007. The device allows consumers to rent or buy songs and videos from its iTunes and enjoy them on TV. Consumers also are able to get some other Internet content via Apple TV, but not a whole lot.
Yahoo (YHOO) also has given it a try. It has developed software that's embedded in TVs and allows viewers to pull information such as stock prices, news and weather information from various Yahoo sites, as well as from a lineup of other sites. Yahoo has convinced several TV makers, including Sony and Samsung, to put its widget inside the TV.
Other players in the Internet-to-TV arena include Roku, which is selling a set-top box with Wi-Fi that can stream TV shows, movies, sports games and music from a menu of content providers, including Netflix (NFLX), Pandora and the National Basketball Association's online channel. Some content is free, while some require a paid subscription to a particular website.
Will the Search Giant Succeed?
Still, at least two things seem to set Google's offerings apart. One is that it's bringing the entire Internet to TV instead of selected websites or services, says Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at NPD Group.
The second is the possibility of creating a plethora of applications to enhance the viewing experience, much like the long list of apps developed for the iPhone that make it do more than just make calls, send text messages and fetch email. Google will have to rely on third-party developers to make this possible.
"We have seen a lot of devices that are dispensable," Rubin says. "So far, no one has a killer application for TV beyond the electronic programming guide and the DVR."