Google has announced an open platform to bring the internet to the television viewing experience. Google TV will be based on the open Android platform and run the Google Chrome web browser. It will also support Adobe Flash. The announcement was supported by Sony and Logitech who will offer products based on the Intel Atom processor later this year. Although intended to work with any television service provider, the first integration partner will be the Dish Network.
Google TV was presented at a developer event in San Francisco as a “a new platform which we believe will change the future of TV”. Ironically, the demonstration was marred by problems that were blamed on overloaded network connectivity.
Based on the open source Android operating system, the Google TV experience will not only integrate the worlds of the web and television, but will enable integration with compatible phones that could be used as voice recognition remote controls.
As one might expect from Google, it will support seamless search across the web and television schedules. It will also provide a YouTube Leanback experience that will automatically offer a personalised channel. In addition, it will run apps from the Android Market, enabling an unlimited variety of third-party applications.
For Google it also opens up the prospect of providing addressable, interactive, measurable advertising to the television screen.
“We are very proud to be working with this distinguished set of partners, all of whom have decades of experience in hardware, design and retail,” said Eric Schmidt, the chairman and chief executive of Google.
A new Sony Internet TV range will feature a standalone display and also a separate device incorporating a Blu-ray disc drive. Howard Stringer, the chief executive of Sony said it will “fuse new levels of enjoyment and interactivity into the TV experience”.
Logitech will also launch a device with a Harmony remote control and keyboard that will work with other brands of high-definition televisions and set-top boxes.
“Today marks the next step in the evolution of TV to Smart TV,” said Paul Otellini, the chief executive of Intel. “TV’s are becoming smarter as a result of the microprocessor and the Internet. Traditional TV programming will be merged seamlessly with the infinite amount of content on the internet to enable every viewer to determine what they want to watch, when they want it. This is Moore’s Law transforming television, powered by the performance of Intel microprocessors.”
Charlie Ergen, the chief executive of Dish Network, the satellite television service provider that has been working with Google for over a year, said: “Google TV marks the next evolution in television”. Dish Network Google TV customers will be able to search across television and the web. “Additionally, the advanced integration will allow developers to create new and exciting applications to enrich the TV viewing experience.”
Google will release a set of television specific application programming interfaces for web applications. Later this year it will release an updated software development kit for its Android platform which will support applications for Google TV. The Google TV platform will be made open source.
As an open system, Google TV will challenge the proprietary platforms of companies like Apple. The support for Adobe Flash, a published but proprietary standard, is also significant. The latest Adobe Flash Player 10.1 will be integrated into the Google Chrome browser on Google TV. Shantanu Narayen, the chief executive of Adobe, said: “We’re thrilled to be part of the Google TV initiative with other industry leaders who share a common vision of enabling access to the best web experiences possible.”
Microsoft has spent billions trying to get into television but has had only limited success with its proprietary approach. While Yahoo! has had some success in promoting the adoption of web-based widgets on network-connected televisions, Google goes further in providing an entirely open operating system for network television.
“The long-anticipated entry of Google to the television market could be a game-changer,” said William Cooper, who heads the informitv interactive television consultancy. “By promoting an open environment, Google TV will accelerate the inevitable convergence of the internet and television.”
The initiative further undermines the claimed rationale for Project Canvas to establish an open “standards-based” platform for connected television, backed by public service broadcasters in Britain.
A genuinely open source platform backed by global players like Google and Intel is more likely to be supported by multinational consumer electronics companies like Sony.
As with the Yahoo! Connected TV widget initiative, the Google approach largely bypasses broadcasters. The concern of commercial networks will be the extent to which this could open up the lucrative television advertising market to Google at their expense.