SAN JOSE, Calif. Google officially rolled out its GoogleTV initiative at its annual Google I/O conference in San Francisco. The company promised its designs for set-top boxes and related software and services will reshape television by integrating the Web and TV.
Sony will deliver a line of connected TVs and a Blu-ray player integrating Google TV this fall. Logitech is designing a set-top box to bring the features to existing TVs.
All the systems will be powered by Intel Atom-based processors. They mark the first design wins for the PC giant in the digital TV market it has pursued for more than two years. Intel initially partnered with Yahoo to create the Widget Channel interface to bring the Web to the TV.
Google said it will make its GoogleTV software available as open source code in the summer of 2011. It will be available as part of the Android and Google Chrome browser
Google showed ways to use a single search box to find and play current or future content on broadcast TV or the Web. It also showed ways GoogleTV could bring Web services and applications to the TV in ways that create new uses for cellphones and flat-screen TVs.
"It's now possible people may spend more time watching something other than broadcast TV on their televisions," said Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google who chaired an on-stage panel with the CEOs of Intel, Sony, Adobe, best Buy and other partners.
"We need help from the entire TV ecosystem," said a GoogleTV manager. "For a developer there is no bigger market than the TV market," he added, noting there are an estimated four billion TVs in use, more than the number of cellphones.
GoogleTV relies on Wi-Fi and Ethernet links. GoogleTV set-tops will link via HDMI to any existing cable or satellite set-top box. The software requires graphics processor for on-screen display, a DSP for high def audio and surround sound. Universal remotes are in the works that will include a keyboard and a pointing device to navigate Web pages.
Google showed Android smartphones used as remote controllers for GoogleTV. They could also push online videos to a TV screen. The company also demonstrated Android speech recognition services in the works that let a user issue a voice command to find and tune into a TV show.
Word emerged about GoogleTV in March. At that time a Yahoo spokesman said about its Widget Channel effort that "there will be millions of TVs in the market using our software by the end of 2010," the Yahoo spokesman said.
Demonstrators struggled to get a system up and running on stage, in part, they said because the demo used Bluetooth. Attendees at the event with cellphones on deprived demonstrators of the bandwidth they needed to control on-stage large screen TVs.
Others computer and Web giants have tried and to enable connected TVs with marginal results so far. Microsoft has worked for years to establish its Media Center interface for TVs. Apple has been selling its AppleTV device for more than a year. Neither product has gained much traction, and Apple continues tom refer to AppleTV as "a hobby."
Last year Google announce an ambitious effort to define the future of e-mail with its Google Wave program. The search giant opened a broad beta of the program this year, but it's not clear yet whether it will gain any traction.