Google plans to hit small screens

Google has unveiled Google TV and announced a powerful array of allies in consumer electronics, retail and broadcast for its assault on the living room.

The Silicon Valley company said on Thursday it would launch a service in the autumn that includes Google Search and merges applications and a web browser with television programming through a set-top box or integrated TV.

Following a demonstration at Google’s developer conference in San Francisco, Eric Schmidt, chief executive, received strong industry backing for the service as he was joined on stage by the heads of Adobe, BestBuy, Dish Network, Intel, Logitech and Sony.

Mr Schmidt said it had taken many years and the advent of software and services such as cloud computing to make internet TV possible.

“There was one other thing we needed and that turned out to be fundamental. We needed a whole ecosystem of partners,” he said.

Sony is to launch a line-up of televisions and Blu-ray players in the autumn that include Google’s Android operating system and Chrome browser, powered by Intel’s Atom chip.

Logitech plans to introduce a set-top box with a remote control and integrated keyboard at the same time.

Charlie Ergen, Dish Network chief executive, said the software would allow its satellite subscribers to search across TV programming, their digital video recorder and the web to find related content.

Shares in Tivo, which sells DVRs and licenses its programme guide software, fell 6 per cent on the news.

The US launches – international ones are expected in 2011 – represent a concerted effort by the partners to grab market share in internet-connected TVs, which were introduced in large numbers at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

“I think there is going to be an enormous consumer appetite . . . it opens up an entirely new category,” Brian Dunn, Best Buy chief executive, told a news conference.

Intel said last week that it had seen explosive demand for its Atom microprocessors from set-top box and TV makers and Paul Otellini, chief executive, described the advent of “Smart TV” as the biggest broadcast revolution since the introduction of colour.

“The Google, Sony and Logitech relationship is the earliest, deepest and best we’ve seen so far,” he told reporters.

“What I see in the pipeline are other versions, but they don’t have the deep integration of the web and broadcast that this content has, so we’re super excited.”

Google and its partners said the service would be free and prices for Sony’s TV and Logitech’s box would be announced at a later date.

Sir Howard Stringer, president of Sony, said its Bravia internet video link for its TVs would be maintained, but Google TV was the future, even though Sony lacked exclusivity with the technology.

“We have about a six-month lead [over our competitors], we are the first out of the box and it’s up to us to take advantage otherwise everyone else will have a chance to develop a system similarly,” he said.

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