Social networking and other popular applications will be key drivers for Google TV, which will be just one of many new “smart TV” consumer products to hit shelves, according to an Intel executive.
Google TV uses the Google Android operating system to support TV content and Web applications accessed through a Chrome browser and remote control on Web-connected televisions and Blu-ray players.
Sony is building the Internet TVs and Blu-ray players, while Logitech is making set-top boxes and remote controls consumers will use to surf channels and browse applications.
Intel, which has tried unsuccessfully for a decade to put Web content on TVs, is providing the Atom chipsets for the Sony and Logitech hardware.
“Google TV represents a very high-profile kind of smart TV, and we’re proud to be a part of it,” said Wilfred Martis, general manager of the digital home group at Intel, speaking June 10 at the Connections conference in Santa Clara, Calif. “But smart TV is going to be bigger than just one company or one technology. It is going to be an entire category of smart TV products with lots of new, interactive TV experiences.”
Google TV blends Web search with the channel surfing experience. With a special remote control keypad, users will access a drag-down search box to jump from channel to channel.
These actions won’t necessarily be siloed; users may search for information about a program, including comments from Twitter or ESPN.com, while they watch that program in the lower right-and corner of the screen.
Search is obviously a big draw for such a service, but Martis said social networking functionality will serve as big lures for Google TV and comparable services, such as those built on the open-source MeeGo platform developed by Intel and Nokia.
“Imagine social networking integrated into a reality show viewing experience, enabled by having an interactive, open platform,” Martis said.
Not Everyone Is Bullish on Google TV
Users will upload, access and share links, videos and photos from Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and share YouTube videos with their friends on a larger screen.
Martis said these applications will work on Google TV and like services because the marketplace and consumer expectations of what can be done with user-generated content have matured over the years.
He also said mainstream smartphone applications for gaming and social networking are relevant to the TV viewing experience. What plays well on a smartphone will play well on a TV set, he argued. Moreover, Google is upgrading its Android SDK (software development kit) to accommodate applications tailored for Google TV, but not until after the service goes live in fall 2010.
Martis’ bullish comments come as his team is working hard to help bring Google TV devices to shelves at Best Buy. Not everyone shares Martis’ enthusiasm for Google TV, however.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs knocked Google TV and such services at the D8 conference the week of May 31, arguing that consumers don’t want to stick another box or more remotes on their TVs and coffee tables.
Industry analysts have also expressed skepticism about Web TV, noting that Google didn’t appear to have acquired much support from cable TV and broadband providers. Satellite provider Dish Network is currently the lone supporter in that realm.
Martis meanwhile candidly acknowledged Intel’s failures with Web TV and Viiv.
Web TV failed a decade ago because it lacked the technological infrastructure, such as high-speed bandwidth and high-resolution displays to support it. Viiv, he said, had the right technology but neither the content nor the business model needed to capitalize on it.
“It seems the business model was always a coming attraction in a future episode,” Martis said, his keynote speech laced with TV puns. “If our industry were a TV show we wouldn’t have been picked up for another season.”
However, Intel never abandoned the market and the chip maker learned a lot from each step and misstep it made along the path, he said.