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Google Releases TV SDK

Android developers can write apps for Google TV in advance of updated hardware expected this year.

Google on Monday introduced a preview version of its Google TV add-on for Android software development kit (SDK), a software component that allows developers to write apps for Google TV.

Google's Android-based Google TV launched last October with much fanfare. The event included hardware partners Dish Network, Logitech, Intel, and Sony. Retail sales could have been better.

Google TV was supposed to bring TV and the Internet together under one device and allow third-party Android developers to create apps that Google TV viewers could use in their living rooms. That promise couldn't immediately be fulfilled because content providers spurned the platform and because Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) was released prematurely.

Android developers were told to expect the Google TV add-on in early 2011, but the deadline slipped as Google determined that it needed more time to make Android better. Finally, it is here and developers can begin adapting their apps to Google TV. It requires Android 3.1 API 12 or later.

Google will only include apps in the Google TV section of the Android Market if the apps include a manifest file that indicates compatibility with Google TV devices.

As an example, Google TV product manager Ambarish Kenghe explains in a blog post that apps requiring touchscreen interaction will not appear in the Google TV section of the Android Market. "Conversely, if the manifest says touchscreen is not required, the app will appear," he said.

Google also cautions against expecting something like a mileage-measuring app to be functional on Google TV devices.

Beyond the absence of touchscreen support, other Android features not available to Google TV apps include: Bluetooth, camera, location/GPS, microphone, NFC, telephony, and sensors for device orientation, movement, and brightness.

The primary feature of the Google TV add-on not available in the general Android SDK is the ability to change channels programmatically and to obtain channel-listing data from TV channels.

Google has also released user interface guidelines to assist developers in creating apps that are optimized for D-pad navigation--the Google TV remote--and for presenting information on large TV screens, which unsurprisingly have different design requirements than tiny mobile phone screens.

All that remains is for the release of the next generation of Google TV hardware, expected before the end of the year, to be a hit. Google's recent decision to purchase Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion may help make that happen: Motorola is well-regarded as a maker of set-top boxes for TVs.

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