TV for Google isn't a hobby. It's a new market for the company and for Android developers. TV is converging with the Web. It's the place where $70 billion is spent every year on ads in the U.S. alone.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt showed up at the Google IO developer conference on Thursday with the CEOs of six other major companies to emphasize the seriousness of Google's effort to integrate the Web and television.
Schmidt arrived following a lengthy and trouble-prone demo -- mobile phones plus computers hurt Bluetooth wireless keyboard connectivity -- to moderate a discussion of the promise of Google TV.
Participating in the discussion were Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel, Sir Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony, Jerry Quindlen, CEO of Logitech, Charles Ergen, CEO of DISH Network, Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy, and Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe.
Google TV, as Google group product manager Rishi Chandra put it, represents Google's effort "to find a way to bring the entire Web to television."
Toward that end, Google TV provides a search box that returns search data from Web and television sources. It allows users to find relevant content wherever it resides and promises to make content suited to the user's tastes more discoverable and manageable through personalization features.
It will offer picture-in-picture layout to support viewing multiple shows and/or Web sites simultaneously.
Based on Intel Atom CE4100 silicon, the first Google TV devices -- the Sony Internet TV line -- will arrive this fall, with Android Market support in early 2011 and the Google TV SDK.
Sony will offer a standalone TV model and set-top box with an integrated Blu-ray Disc drive.
Logitech will offer its own set-top box for Google TV, a remote, and an HDTV camera and video calling/chat service that runs on Google TV.
DISH Network's DVR will be able to connect to and be programmed from Google TV.
Best Buy will provide the initial retail distribution. And Adobe is along for the ride because, as Google VP of engineering Vic Gundotra put it his Android presentation earlier, " It turns out that on the Internet people use Flash."
"It really is a very big deal, I can't stress that enough," said Stringer.
Research firm IDC believes price may prove a barrier to adoption. "High price points for a product requiring IA-level processing may hinder Google TV's prospects," the firm said in a research note. "Google TV-powered devices will be competing against sub-$99 offerings from the likes of Roku and Western Digital, sub-$150 Blu-ray players with embedded online services, and video game consoles that come with a broad range of other applications."
For developers, Google TV offers the chance to create apps that run on televisions as well as mobile devices. There's no app for that on Apple TV.