Google TV 2.0 Flavored with Android 3.1 "Honeycomb"
Geek.com got a nice little scoop for Google TV fans: images of the next version of Google TV, running Google's Android 3.1 flavor of "Honeycomb."
Google TV fans--it's time to get excited, but first a little perspective helps.
I just upgraded my Google I/O edition Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to Honeycomb 3.1 yesterday and am just beginning to appreciate the nuances of the new system, including expandable widgets and other perks.
My Tab was only on Android 2.0 for 40 days, but my Google TV has been stuck in the Android 2.1 time warp since I powered it on last October. By today's smartphone evolution standards, Google TV feels ancient.
That's why this Geek.com scoopage is a breath of fresh air. I won't focus on the box Geek.com details for reasons I will get to later, but this software sounds like a nice improvement to start:
The device comes preloaded with Google TV 2.0 beta, which we've been told is a stripped-down version of Android 3.1. It includes a Clock application and the Live TV function, which currently only receives a signal from the HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port. The only other application that comes preloaded on the box is Google Chrome--not the Android browser, an honest-to-goodness full version of Google Chrome.
There is also dual-TV, which likely provides "the ability to run an app and stream TV at the same time." Nice!
I'll take full Chrome over the Android browser any day. I can't wait to flash my Chrome Webstore applications--Angry Birds and more--on the big screen.
Anyone want to guess what haptics startup Google will buy to build motion-based gaming systems for Google TV? I'm getting ahead of myself here; I've no evidence of that but it's gotta be in the mix. Google can't look at Microsoft Kinect and not want to add something like it.
Now about the different hardware. Geek.com noted the Fishtank test box is fitted with the CE4100 chipset, which will handle Flash and 3D gaming. While my Android 2.1-based Google TV software and Logitech Revue unit won't handle Flash or 3D gaming, Google will enable both via Honeycomb. So we shouldn't be left out.
Geek.com also noted the Logitech components; Logitech is very much still on-board with this project, I've been assured.
I actually spoke with Google TV Product Manager Rishi Chandra at Google I/O last month. I repeatedly asked him if people who bought Google TV 1.0 would be excluded from a lot of the future features coming in Honeycomb 3.1.
I was assured that users wouldn't miss much--think of it as the way it is with Android smartphones. My Motorola Droid X launched with Android 2.1, but it now runs Android 2.2 and should get the Android 2.3 bump sometime this year.
Of course, this won't account for any gross hardware upgrades. Google TV users with the Logitech Revue are wed to that hardware. It's unclear what perks new Google TV machines will have in store for future buyers. They'll probably accept the haptics controllers the current hardware lacks. :)
Fortunately, most of the necessary Google TV upgrades will be in the software delivered from Google's cloud. Google also just bought SageTV, so I'm confident place-shifting and other perks will make it into Google TV in time for version 2.0.
So if you're an early Google TV adopter--and suffered through that initial bare-bones Netflix application--don't fret. You'll be taken care of.