Google TV will merge the TV-watching experience with surfing the Web, an ambitious move that follows where Apple, Microsoft and others have failed to find great traction.
Unveiled at the Google I/O developer conference May 20, Google TV is based on the Android 2.1 mobile operating system and uses Google's Chrome Web browser with support for Adobe Systems' Flash 10.1. Google has identified Intel, Sony, Logitech, Best Buy, Dish Network and Adobe as partners.
Google TV is designed to let users enjoy the content consumption they get from watching big-screen TVs along with the searching and information-gathering experience they know and love from computers and Web applications.
The idea is that people will be able to turn on their TVs and navigate between all of their channels and all of their favorite Websites and Web applications, including YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Picasa, Gmail, Facebook and Twitter.
To that end, Google TV also marks the company's latest effort to generate advertising dollars from Web applications and services.
Google TV Project Lead Rishi Chandra, fighting off spotty WiFi access at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, demonstrated how users will be able to access a drop-down search bar from the top of a Sony TV screen to search among various news channels and YouTube.
There were some neat features users have come to associate with IPTV services, including the ability to minimize a TV program in a small box in the lower right-hand corner of the TV screen to see what programming is showing on other channels, or even read statistics related to sporting events on the minimized channel.
Chandra also showed how users can search by speaking into a remote control device, provided by partner Logitech, which is also providing a keyboard controller. Users will also be able to control Google TV through Android smartphones.
Also, YouTube has created Leanback, optimized for the television, which plays users' personal videos when they navigate to the site.
Google expects the more than 180,000 Android developers to build entertainment, gaming and productivity applications for Google TV, just as they built similar applications for smartphones based on Android.
Google TV will be integrated in Sony televisions and Blu-ray players and Logitech companion boxes (along with remotes). These machines will come equipped with WiFi and Ethernet and will connect to satellite and cable boxes through HDMI cables. All of these devices will be sold through Best Buy in the fall, though pricing is not yet available.
Intel's Atom CE4100 system-on-a-chip processor will power the Sony TVs and Logitech companion boxes. Intel CEO Paul Otellini said at Google I/O the Atom processor is specially designed for consumer electronics devices.
Google TV will work with any TV operator, but the user experience will be fully optimized for the Dish Network at launch. Google is also aiming to add Google TV to Dish's DVRs.
The Google TV SDK (software development kit) and Web APIs for TV will arrive later; developers will sell applications through the Android Market.