Google TV Tries Again, Adds Android App Support

Google TV's new software is ready and will soon be available for Logitech and Sony hardware.
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Google is ready to release a software update for its partners' Google TV hardware. The update focuses on interface simplification, improved content discovery, YouTube integration, and Android app support.

Mario Queiroz, VP of product management, and Vincent Dureau, director of engineering, said in a blog post that Google expects to deliver the software update to Sony Internet TVs next week and Logitech Revue devices shortly after that.

The new customizable home screen is easier to understand and organize than its previous incarnation. Google has added an Android app called "TV & Movies" to help people find something to watch when they don't know what to search for--the ability to run Android apps on Google TV hardware is the product's most significant feature. YouTube is now more tightly tied to Google TV, such that virtually any content topic keyword can be turned into its own channel.

Google's pitch for the "new Google TV" no longer hints at a revolution. It used to be Google TV aimed to "open up the living room." But "open" in Hollywood means opening the company wallet. Hence the Web content blockade initiated late last year by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and Viacom to keep their online shows from being viewed through Google TV's Web browser: The studios feared that Google TV would convert the TV audience to a Web audience, reducing their advertising and content deals with cable and broadcast channels.

At the Game Developers Conference in March, Google engineer Andres Ferrate in a presentation to potential Google TV developers acknowledged that the company's messaging about Google TV had missed the mark. It was clear then that Google wanted to distance itself from the misapprehension that Google TV aspired to be a cable killer. Google TV still represents the marriage of TV and the Internet, but now the newlyweds are sleeping chastely in separate bedrooms.

[ Find out what Google said about Google TV to developers in March. Read GDC: Reframing Google TV. ]

Thus we have Google's new messaging: "Plays nice with the stuff you already have." Move along, there's no revolution to see here.

The Mr. Nice Guy approach may be fight-the-power fatigue, the result of blow-back from years of copyright lawsuits, Google's Street View privacy problems, and a battle with Microsoft that has spiraled into a serious antitrust problem. Or it may just be a pragmatic approach to dealing with an industry where costly content can't just be indexed, aggregated, and organized in the way that commodified text has been. But either way, Google is hoping that Google TV will receive a better reception than the rough cut that arrived last year.

If Google TV flops the second time around, it becomes more likely that Apple will conquer the living room without opposition. Apple is said to be working on a television, a project that could turn its Apple TV "hobby" into a meaningful revenue stream.

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