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Sony's Google TV  (Source: Sony)

The TV packs one big remote control. Soon you will be able to control your TV via your Android smart phone, though, even using voice commands.  (Source: Sony)

For those who don't want to buy a new TV, Sony is also offering a Google TV Blu-Ray player, giving customers one more way to ditch the set-top box.  (Source: Sony)
Google aims to take over the emerging TV OS market

Google is increasingly became a leading force as an operating system developer.  Its Android smartphone operating system is growing faster than any other smartphone operating system, and its Chrome operating system for tablets and netbooks will soon debut as well.

But Google's latest OS entry comes in a market you might not expect -- television.  On Tuesday, Sony introduced the first television hardware on the market to be powered by Google's new Google TV OS.

The new Google TV-enabled HDTV flat-screens from Sony come in 24-inch ($600 USD); 32-inch ($800); 40-inch ($1,000); and 46-inch ($1,400) varieties.  They will be sold through sonystyle.com and at retailers like Best Buy.  Best Buy will have the new TVs stocked by Sunday.

The new Sony TV marks a departure from "dumb" televisions that had to be attached to set-top boxes from companies like Apple, Logitech, Roku and Boxee, in order to provide additional functionality.  With Google designing the operating system, Sony was free to focus on adding enough hardware to support it -- a manageable task.

Sony packed an Intel Atom-based CE4100 consumer electronics system-on-chip (SoC) into the television to provide it sufficient processing power.  The TV's video hardware is capable of providing a dual-view mode, with two simultaneous high-definition feeds.  You can connect the television to the internet by ethernet cable or by Wi-Fi

The operating system, Google TV, is actually a variant of Android and shares much of its source code.  As Android is built on a Linux kernel, this marks yet another example of how Google is quietly growing Linux's market share (Linus Torvalds must be somewhere silently cheering).

The OS is streamlined to provide easy web browsing, with a focus on common activities like reading the news, posting to Twitter/Facebook, and running searches.  Much like Microsoft did with Bing for its upcoming Windows Phone 7, Google has fine-tuned a version of its search engine that's more friendly for TV uses, with a propensity to display TV show schedules prominently in the results.  As with any browser, users can bookmark their favorite content for a speedy return at a later date.

One of Google's closest competitors, the new $99 Apple TV, has a lot to worry about from Google's new OS.  It is capable of playing 1080p video, while the Apple box can only muster 720p.  And while Apple has banned apps from its set-top (for now), Google has embraced them, with the new TVs soon being able to fully access the Android market (Sony's page says this feature is "Coming in 2011").  The Sony TVs come preloaded with CNBC, Napster, NBA, Netflix, Pandora, Twitter, and YouTube apps.

The TV will soon have a plethora of control options.  Current users must utilize a bulky six-inch remote that packs an optical mouse pointer, a mini keyboard, a home button, and more.  Soon, though, Google will be releasing an app that will allow Android phone owners to use touch and voice controls on their phone to navigate through their television's menus.

But Google isn't abandoning those with "dumb" TVs who are loathe to upgrade to a new set like the slick Sony HDTVs.  Accompanying the HDTV launch is a new $400 USD Blu-Ray player from Sony that come with Google TV installed inside.  This unit comes with the same kind of advantages as its television brethren -- eliminating the superfluous set-top box, offering full 1080p, and offering access to useful apps.

Surveying the Google TV launch, one can't help but get the notion that Google is plotting the demise of the traditional personal computer.  After all, much like Apple, it is luring customers away from their desktops and is getting them to increasingly devote their computing time to their smart phones and tablets.  And now it's doing the same thing with televisions.  Given the success of Android, it seems that makers of traditional PC hardware and software should be very concerned.



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RE: May be...
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/13/2010 9:38:34 AM , Rating: 1
You don't need a set-top box with this system... that's the whole idea...

Why release an individual set-top box, when you can incorporate all its functionality into a Blu-Ray player or inside the TV itself?

I do think the system is a *bit* pricey. Sony's last-gen Blu-Ray player is on sale from $209 at Newegg.com right now, so the new model is roughly a $191 markup.

Is this sum worth it to ditch the settop box and get full internet browsing? Certainly not for all customers, but maybe for some.


RE: May be...
By nrizzotte on 10/13/2010 10:01:47 AM , Rating: 2
Can someone help me understand how this works? I understand the web and social networking options of it, but do you still need a cable tv signal?
I also see it has an HDMI in jack on the rear. So you're required to have a set top box to tune the stations, necessary for any premium channels?
If that's true how does that replace a set top box? or are they referring solely to a third part web device?


RE: May be...
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/13/2010 10:20:44 AM , Rating: 2
quote:

Can someone help me understand how this works? I understand the web and social networking options of it, but do you still need a cable tv signal?
I also see it has an HDMI in jack on the rear. So you're required to have a set top box to tune the stations, necessary for any premium channels?
If that's true how does that replace a set top box? or are they referring solely to a third part web device?


You need cable of some sort. So either video from a cable-connected settop box (like Uverse's) or direct cable like Comcast typically does with their low end packages.

So perhaps it would be more proper to say that Google is trying to do away with *certain kinds* of third-party set-top boxes, e.g. non-cable ones like Apple's.


RE: May be...
By tophat on 10/15/2010 7:23:41 PM , Rating: 2
The GoogleTv is an interface that allows for widgets to be placed onto the HDTV. Those widgets will then be able to access internet content (much like your smartphones). Content such as VOD, commerce sites such as eBay, and social networking sites such as Facebook. What this requires is an internet connection. With Google TV and being internet enabled (HDMI 1.4 now allows for internet connectivity through the same HDMI cable), the HDTV can now do away with the DVR as well as the HTPC if the HDTV has a storage device connected to it or has one internally (or an ability to connect to a NAS). This is a real game changer in the sense that the HDTV will no longer be a merely a means to display data but access data. Being able to connect to the internet opens up a whole new dimension of features and accessibility.


RE: May be...
By theapparition on 10/13/2010 1:38:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I do think the system is a *bit* pricey. Sony's last-gen Blu-Ray player is on sale from $209 at Newegg.com right now, so the new model is roughly a $191 markup.

When was comparing retail MSRP vs. newegg ever a fair comparison?

When eventually offered on Newegg, I bet you soon see prices settle in the low $300 range, which is quite acceptable for the extra functionality.


RE: May be...
By Alexvrb on 10/13/2010 6:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
What about FiOS TV users? What if I have an existing set top box like a slingbox or whatever - I'm not going to pay for extra hardware built into the TV I don't want.

Not to mention it makes the whole thing less flexible. If the built-in hardware becomes inadequate for "the next new thing" then you either have to get a new *gasp* set top box or else replace the whole TV.

I'd rather they worked with the industry to come up with a new standard for housing a removable internal STB that has a direct (internal) connection to the TV. Slide your Verizon, Slingbox, WD Live, Google, Apple, whatever Box into the side of your TV. Bam, it's connected. Need a new STB? Slide the old one out, new one in, bam you're done.

But google has never been big on standards, unless it suits them. In this case, they won't conquer the TV OS market by opening the doors to competition.


RE: May be...
By Alexvrb on 10/13/2010 6:25:38 PM , Rating: 2
... and no, cablecard is not good enough. I've looked into it, and it doesn't allow for very much additional functionality in many cases. What I am proposing would be similar to Google TV, only you could use a Box from any vendor with any OS and it would add new interfaces/functionality depending on the Box. The Box could even hijack the infrared reciever so you could use the controller for said Box and manipulate all the TV functions as well as the new functions.


RE: May be...
By Alexstarfire on 10/14/2010 1:20:58 AM , Rating: 2
I'd just consider this another option rather than thinking all TVs will go this route. It'd be great for them since you'd upgrade TVs more often, but people don't want that.


"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard














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