Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) said it plans to upgrade its Google TV software by the end of the year, adding fresh content and more personalized recommendations, and maintaining its annual software upgrade schedule.
“We don’t intend to stop iterating,” Rishi Chandra, director of product management for Google TV, told BusinessWeek at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. “You’ll see cool interaction stuff, you’ll see a lot of cool things happening on the recommendation engine and on the discovery experience.”
Google TV is the Android-based Web TV platform that lets consumers Web and channel surf. The software comes installed on Internet TVs, Blu-ray players from Sony, as well as the Logitech Revue companion box. The first version of the platform failed to sell well, and Logitech ceased making the Revue systems.
The second version, based on Android 3.1 “Honeycomb” is vastly improved, offering more than 150 Google TV-tailored applications from the Android Market. Google said it saw Google TV’s activation rate double after the refresh late last year.
CES proved to be a hotbed of Google TV activity. LG, Vizio and Sony all showed off new Google TV systems, ranging from TVs to Blu-ray players and streaming media boxes.
Marvell showed off its new Armada 1500 chipset for Google TV, a 1.2GHz chipset that loaded Google’s software much faster than Intel’s slower Atom chipset did. Samsung, Google’s strongest Android partner, is launching a Google TV system this year.
Google would benefit by improving TV and video recommendations to carefully match preferences with the user. Chandra told BusinessWeek Google TV will ultimately track peoples’ viewing preferences and offer recommendations. This service will require an opt-in on the part of consumers who want their content viewing kept private.
Google declined to provide additional comment to eWEEK, but such a recommendation service could be linked to users’ Android smartphones.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said at CES that Google ideally could enable users’ phones to send a text message alert to users’ TVs, ordering up content based on their personal preferences.
The idea is that rather than making users’ hunt and peck for content on their Google TV remote controls, Google will deliver content to users’ based on TV and movies they viewed previously.
Google TV will also include voice search capabilities over time, matching Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and TVs from Samsung. The idea is to let users search with voice input instead of typing.
Yet whiz-bang features and recommendations alone won’t sell Google TV to consumers. Google should also provide consumers more content choices and would benefit greatly from a partnership with Hulu, the video-streaming power run by TV networks.
Hulu, which has 1.5 million subscribers, charges consumers $8 a month for streamed TV shows. The service currently blocks Google TV from accessing its content, as Hulu has been loathe to license its programming to Google, Boxee and others.