Google introduced Google TV at Google I/O May 20, capping months of speculation about the service.
Here is the gist: Google TV marries Web and television programming access, allowing users to access Web content while watching TV, or switching back and forth seamlessly between the two.
Android is the underlying operating system for the service, which comprises Intel Atom chip-powered Sony TVs and Logitech companion boxes. Users will access Web apps through Google Chrome browser. Best Buy will sell the devices in the fall.
Tim Bray, a developer evangelist for Android at Google, ran this nice little Q&A on the emerging service with Google TV Technical Director Vincent Dureau, who began working on TV ads for Google after joining the company from Direct TV four years ago.
Dureau was on stage yesterday for the Google TV demo, but left most of the presentation to product lead Rishi Chandra, who just discussed the future of Google Wave and HTML5 with me less than a year ago. Funny how time flies and things change.
In any event, Bray asked the pertinent question: Why do we need Google TV?
"Even two years ago you would have said that telephones are mostly for making calls, maybe for e-mail and texting. Today, we know that phones can actually do a whole lot more. In the same way, people say that TV is just for watching TV. But, like the phone can be used for more than making calls, we believe that TV can be used for more than just video. Also, there's not enough shelf space for the stuff on TV--not even with online channel guides and your PVR access and your racks full of disks. The shelf space should be as big as the Web."
So Google TV is designed to stretch the limits of TV from being the idiot box to include better Web-enabled software and programming than exists on today's IPTV services. Now it's a smarter box with information-gathering Web apps.
Google TV is designed to make the ultimate content consumption screen a window for the Web. Not said: And we will advertise the living hell out of it.
Developers, Dureau said, can tap this opportunity to build new, meaningful applications, or even silly games, if they choose. Ultimately, it's another way to get users to interface with content.
He also said the SDK, which isn't slated until after the Sony TVs appear later this year, will provide TV-specific features, "like being smart about screen sizes, changing channels, embedding video streams, mashing up live TV and what's on the PVR and what's on the Web."
Meanwhile, he said users can expect Listen, Netflix and Amazon Video On Demand to join the Google TV party.
I wonder. Note that of all the partners Google trooped up on stage, other than satellite TV provider Dish, there was no cable or IPTV provider in sight.
No representatives from Verizon FIOS, AT&T U-Verse or Comcast. No reps from TV content providers TBS, TNT or Discovery.
Will they get on board? And, as one analyst told me in a story I will feature on eWEEK this weekend, why is the SDK coming months after the Sony TVs and products launch? That doesn't make sense for development purposes.
Dureau's vision is grand and the promise is great, but the road to Web-TV matrimony is paved with bitter divorcees and widows. Can Google succeed where Apple and Microsoft failed?