Google bringing Web to TV set

Internet giant Google is out to expand its kingdom to the living room with an ambitious new service that lets people mesh television viewing with surfing the web.

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“Google TV,” developed in partnership with technology titans Sony, Intel and Logitech, fuses the freedom of the internet with television programming. Google executives vowed their TV platform will succeed where offerings such as Apple TV have foundered.

“Google TV is a new platform that we believe will change the future of television,” Google group product manager Rishi Chandra said, after unveiling the new service at a software developers conference in San Francisco, California.

“Users don’t have to choose between TV and web; they can have both.”

Google TV, which is powered by Google’s Android software and Chrome web browser, can be accessed using upcoming web-enabled televisions from Sony or set-top boxes from Logitech that route web content to existing TV sets.

Sony and Logitech said the sets and boxes will be available in the United States in time for the year-end holiday shopping season and be rolled out internationally next year. Pricing for the TV sets or the set-top boxes was not disclosed.

During Thursday’s demonstration of the Internet TV technology, Google conducted a series of internet searches in a drop-down box that appears at the top of television programs.

The search results pointed to internet videos and other content related to the television program on the screen.

A telecast of a sporting event can be shrunk into a small “picture-in-picture” box so a viewer can look at statistics or other material about the game on TV.

Viewers will also be able to make search requests by speaking into a remote that runs on Google’s Android operating system. And of course, users can simply use the entire screen for web surfing.

Three of Google’s biggest rivals – Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc – also have been trying to bring more internet video and services to televisions. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs once described his company’s device for tethering TVs to the internet as a “hobby”.

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey expects Apple to become much more serious about its efforts now that Google is expanding into TV.

“The whole game for Google is to become the (operating system) for the living room and make sure Apple doesn’t,” McQuivey said. Google, which made the bulk of its nearly $US24 billion in revenue last year from internet ads displayed on computer screens, wants to turn televisions into giant monitors for web surfing so it can make even more money.

The company estimates that television accounts for $US70 billion in annual advertising in the US alone. Google TV product manager Salahuddin Choudhary said in a blog post that Google TV will allow viewers to get “all the (TV) channels and shows you normally watch and all of the websites you browse all day.

“With the entire internet in your living room, your TV becomes more than a TV – it can be a photo slide-show viewer, a gaming console, a music player and much more,” Choudhary said. Google is not the first technology company to attempt to unite the TV set and the internet and and a number of electronics manufacturers already offer web-enabled televisions or digital set-top boxes.

Yahoo! jumped into the internet television arena more than a year ago, teaming with set makers including Sony, Samsung, VIZIO, and LG to build-in software that let viewers link directly to designated websites. Yahoo! responded to the Google announcement with word that it is expanding to new devices to expand its reach.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the next phase of the internet revolution will be televised,” said Yahoo! Connected TV chief architect Ronald Jacoby.

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