SAN JOSE, Calif. Eighteen months after launching a software initiative for Internet-connected TV's with Yahoo, Intel is reportedly at work on a bigger, better deal with Google and Sony.
The New York Times reported Wednesday (March 17) that Google, Intel and Sony are working on software to bring Web content in an easy to use fashion to the TV, building on Google's Android and Chrome software. Logitech is building remote controls for the effort, the report said. Google and Intel declined comment, and Sony was not immediately available.
At least one source familiar with the plans said the so-called Google TV effort has already produced compelling demos. The source said the demos show the promise of more feature-rich and easy-to-use Internet TVs than what is currently being delivered with the Widget Channel launched by Intel and Yahoo in August 2008 along with Intel's first x86-based TV chip, Canmore.
Intel delivered Sodaville, a second generation integrated TV chips, in September 2009, but has so far failed to announce any design wins for it or Canmore in TV sets. The new partnership has the potential to deliver such a design win, potentially driven more by Google's software more than Intel's silicon.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, several TV makers showed a new zeal for building Internet access into TV sets, typically via an embedded or external Wi-Fi link. U.S. TV upstart Vizio is already using the Yahoo software as a key component in a connected TV set. Many TV makers at CES 2010 used Internet links to show video telephony via a flat-screen TV running Skype.
The hunger for good Web TV software is clearly on the rise. A spokesman for Yahoo said LG Electronics, Samsung, Sony and Vizio started shipping some TVs with its software in 2009 and will use it in more models in 2010. Hisense and Viewsonic will also use it in TVs and set-top boxes to ship this year, he said.
"There will be millions of TVs in the market using our software by the end of 2010," the Yahoo spokesman said.
In January, Yahoo released an open developer's kit for what it calls Yahoo Connected TV. As many as 30 content and service providers currently have live widgets for the service including Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Twitter.
But the Yahoo service is still exploring ways to make money for the Web search company and its partners. Yahoo's aim is to grow an audience by cutting more deals with TV makers and content and service providers.
Eventually, Yahoo aims to provide publishers with tools to make money on the services through a variety of means including display ads and transactions. It's not clear whether Yahoo charges TV makers for its code today.
In the past year, Yahoo has carried the marketing banner for the software effort at trade events. It has also ported the software to MIPS-based processors in addition to Intel's Canmore and Sodaville chips.
For Intel, having multiple software partners in its TV effort is also a good thing, especially if one of them has the clout of a Google. Intel had no progress to report on its TV efforts at CES 2010, so used the event to roll out its latest line of 32nm PC processors.
For its part, Google is also reaching out to an expanding array of portable and consumer devices with its Android and Chrome products to grow its audience and suite of services. Google has had an executive spearheading a TV technology initiative for some time, although the manager did not immediately return requests for an interview.