Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Aug. 22 launched a Google TV software module to help developers begin building Web TV applications and eventually offer them through the search engine’s Android Market.
Google last October launched Google TV, a Web television platform based on the open-source Android operating system that lets users surf the Web and TV channels with the Google Chrome Web browser.
The service has suffered from slow sales after a buggy launch on Logitech Revue companion boxes and Sony HDTVs and Blu-ray players. As recently as May, Google also promised to open up Google TV to third-party developers who want to write apps and sell them in the Android Market.
Although it’s just a prelude to this full offering, this new add-on should give Android developers a taste for how to develop applications for the bigger displays powered by Google TV.
This is particularly important for developers accustomed to writing software for Android phones and Android “Honeycomb” tablets, whose displays are exponentially smaller than those of 42-inch digital TVs.
Indeed, Google is launching Google TV 2.0 this summer, using the very “Honeycomb” OS popularized on Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab and other tablets.
With that Honeycomb upgrade, Google TV devices will be Android-compatible. This means developers will be able to write Android apps for TV, tailor existing mobile or tablet apps for TV, and distribute them free or sell them through Android Market.
The add-on, available here, will let developers test their existing Android apps to determine if they would be a good fit for TV. The module includes new APIs for features such as TV channel lineups.
However, there are some caveats to this add-on: Apps that require features not supported on Google TV won’t appear in Android Market on Google TV.
For example, while Honeycomb is tailored for slates with touch screens, Google TV-based devices do not have a touch screen. This means apps that require touch screens will not appear.
Google TV emulation is currently supported on Linux with KVM only, though Google is working on support for other operating systems.
Google TV was a disappointment for some users and industry watchers-Logitech fired its CEO over poor Revue sales-but the company expects to remedy that with the Honeycomb upgrade this summer.
Moreover, some expect Google could augment the service, which has suffered from lack of interest by broadcasters, with the acquisition of Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) and its set-top box business.
Google could integrate Google TV software with the Motorola STBs and sell them on the cheap to cable providers and managed service operators such as Verizon (NYSE:VZW) and AT&T (NYSE:T).