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Google TV: Android and Chrome on your boob tube

Chocolate Factory uncloaks web happy TV set-tops

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Google I/O The Mountain View Chocolate Factory has unveiled the long-expected Google TV, an Android-based settop platform designed to meld the web with your boob tube. The platform will eventually be open sourced, and the idea is to put it on myriad settops.

"It's about how to make the web and TV better," Google's Rishi Chandra said this morning when unveiling the service at the company's annual developer conference in San Francisco. "It's where TV meets web, and web meets TV."

In typical fashion, Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra said the product would "change the future of television."

Google will partner with various TV service providers and hardware manufacturers to offer the platform. The model is similar to what Google has done with Android in the phone market - minus the Nexus One bit. In some cases, the platform will sit in its own box that will plug into existing cable and satellite settops. But in others, it will be integrated with cable and satellite boxes. Google has partnered with satellite provider Dish Network to offer an integrated box.

Settops are due in Fall 2010. Additional boxes will be manufactured by Sony and Logitech.

The platform is based on Android 2.1, and it includes Google's Chrome browser with an Adobe Flash 10.1 plug-in. After all, you'll need Flash for YouTube.

Google TV boxes will include Wi-Fi and Ethernet, a GPU for 2D and 3D rendering, a specialized version of Intel's Atom processor, and an IR blaster for remote control. Devices require a wireless keyboard and specialized remote. Google is releasing its remote control protocol to third-party developers, and after boxes are launched, Google will offer a Google TV SDK as well.

Google says that SDK won't arrive until early 2011, and the platform won't be open sourced until "later that year."

The platform can also be navigated with an Android phone.

As demoed this morning, Google TV puts a search box across the top of your television screen that lets you search TV listings as well as the web. The search box, the search results, and other tools appear as translucent graphics over your TV feed, and you'll need a specially designed, keyboard-equipped remote control to use it. Naturally, Google TV will also dovetail with DVR services, letting you record shows, which can be done straight from the search results.

There's a home screen that aggregates access to your favorite shows and other content and seeks to suggest new content based on what you've watched in the past.

Of course, the product lets you use your TV for viewing pictures, playing music, and just browsing the web. You can also navigate back and forth between TV and the full web.

In mid-March, The New York Times reported that Google had teamed with Intel and Sony to build a television settop box based on its Android mobile operating system and Chrome web browser. And an earlier story from the The Wall Street Journal said that Google had tested a box with Dish. ®

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