Google TV; Coming to your living room Fall 2010

Screen shot 2010-05-20 at 11.27.09 AMToday’s Google I/O keynote focused on two things.  The first topic, and probably most anticipated, was a walk-through of Android 2.2 (Codename: FroYo) and some goodies we should expect to see in Gingerbread and beyond.  Check out John’s post for more information.

I’m here to talk about the second announcement.  Unfortunately, Team Google fumbled through the demo a, but they certainly got the point across.  TV + Web = Google TV.

Google TV blends live TV, your DVR content, web content and Android apps into one, cohesive user experience.  Using the Quick Search Box, you can scour all of the aforementioned sources to find exactly what you’re looking for.  If you want to watch an episode of The Office, all you have to do is search.  You’ll get TV listings.  You can set your DVR.  You’ll even get results for clips and full episodes from the web.  There’s even the ability to bookmark shows and, of course, webpages.

Google TV is built on three technologies;  Android, Chrome, and Flash.  With Android 2.1 (future upgradable), you’ll be able to browse the Android Market and install apps onto your Google TV.  The great thing is, Android apps that are available today will work just fine (minus phone-specific functions).  You’ll even be able to push apps, from the upcoming Android Market desktop site, directly to the device.  The Chrome implementation means you have access to the FULL web.  It’s not some TV-friendly version.  It’s the real deal.  As Vic said in the keynote, “It turns out, that people on the internet use Flash”.  That being said, full Flash 10.1 is built right in.  What good would it be to be able to search to TV shows on the ‘net, if you couldn’t watch them?

Maybe you don’t know what you want to watch.  They have a solution for that.  The Browse feature allows you to casually scroll through all of the popular content aggregators, like YouTube and Netflix.  You can watch TV shows and movies right from your Watch Instantly queue.

With access to the web and Flash, you can now enjoy a hybrid viewing experience.  Stay up to date with twitter and get stats while you watch the game.  Checking out a recipe from a cooking show you’re watching.  You can even play your favorite Facebook game or watch a photo slideshow from Flickr.  It’s all available.

Without further adieu, take a look at the demo video:

While you certainly can browse the full web with Google TV, some websites could use a little primping to look a little better on the big screen.  Enter YouTube Lean Back.  Lean Back is a content-driven version of the popular video site.  You’ll be presented with your subscriptions, favorites from your friends, and their new Rentals Beta.  You can still search and browse categories.  It just looks nicer.

As I said earlier, you get the full web and most Android apps are going to work just fine.  However, developers will be able to modify their apps to show a specifically formatted view for the appropriate device.  They demoed this with Google Listen…now called Google Listen & Watch.  When they launched the app, they were presented with a home screen that was better formatted for the TV.  It wasn’t a separate app;  The mobile and TV versions are both part of the same Market app.  They were also able to now subscribe to video podcasts, hence the “Watch” addition.  I expect that this feature will come to handsets as well.  What’s neat is that all of your Listen & Watch subscriptions will stay in sync across all of your devices.

The last demo they featured was for closed captioning.  A Google employee developed an Android app that would grab the CC feed, send it to Google Translate and return it in any language you specified.  Pretty neat.

Now that you’re totally sold on the idea, let me tell you how you’ll be able to get it.  If you’re in the market for a new TV, you’re in luck.  Sony will be launching a line of integrated TVs that cram Google TV and a Blu-Ray player inside.  If you’re not ready to drop that kind of cash, you can purchase an Intel ATOM powered Companion Box, from Logitech.  This box connects in-between your digital cable box/satellite receiver and your TV.  You can use any kind of connection cable that you want…as long as it’s HDMI.  There is an IR blaster to control your box/DVR.  I’m not sure why they didn’t do this over the HDMI protocol.  The Companion Box has built-in WiFi or you can use the ethernet connection.  If you’re a Dish Network user, you’re in luck.  Google worked with their engineers to create a seamless experience, between the satellite box and the Companion Box.

There will be a whole host of input devices, like keyboards and pointing devices that connect via Bluetooth.  I’m sure there will be game controllers on that list soon.  There is also an Android app that allows you to control the Companion Box via WiFi (like GMote).  Also with the Android app, you can use voice commands to control your TV.

Google and Logitech have partnered with Best Buy to sell the device.  I don’t know if this is an exclusive partnership or not.

Google TV will be available this Fall.  No price given.