Google bringing Web to TV set

Internet giant Google is out to expand its kingdom to the living room with an ambitious new service that lets people mesh television viewing with surfing the Web.

"Google TV," developed in partnership with technology titans Sony, Intel and Logitech and launched here on Thursday, fuses the freedom of the Internet with television programming.

Google executives vowed their TV platform will succeed where offerings such as Apple TV have foundered.

"Google TV is a new platform that we believe will change the future of television," Google group product manager Rishi Chandra said after unveiling the new service at a software developers conference in San Francisco.

"Users don't have to choose between TV and Web; they can have both."

Google TV, which is powered by Google's Android software and Chrome Web browser, can be accessed using upcoming Web-enabled televisions from Sony or set-top boxes from Logitech that route Web content to existing TV sets.

Sony and Logitech said the sets and boxes will be available in the United States in time for the year-end holiday shopping season and be rolled out internationally next year.

Google TV, which promises to extend the Internet search and advertising giant's reach into the lucrative TV ad market, "combines the best of what TV has to offer and the best of what the Web has to offer," Chandra said.

"The transition from TV to Web is totally seamless," he said during the demonstration for thousands of developers which featured a few technical glitches.

"To the user it doesn't matter where I get my content, whether it be live TV, DVR, or the Web. They just want access to it," Chandra said.

Initially, advertising served on Google TV will be the same as seen now by television viewers or Web surfers but the Internet firm said it is pondering ways to tailor advertising to the platform.

Google TV product manager Salahuddin Choudhary said in a blog post that Google TV will allow TV viewers to get "all the (TV) channels and shows you normally watch and all of the websites you browse all day.

"This opens up your TV from a few hundred channels to millions of channels of entertainment across TV and the Web," Choudhary said. "With the entire Internet in your living room, your TV becomes more than a TV - it can be a photo slide-show viewer, a gaming console, a music player and much more."

Google is not the first technology company to attempt to unite the TV set and the Internet and and a number of electronics manufacturers are already offering Web-enabled televisions or digital set-top boxes.

Yahoo! jumped into the Internet television arena more than a year ago, teaming with set makers including Sony, Samsung, VIZIO, and LG to build-in software "widgets" that let viewers link directly to designated websites.

Yahoo! responded to the Google announcement with word that it is expanding to new devices to expand its reach.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the next phase of the Internet revolution will be televised," said Yahoo! Connected TV chief architect Ronald Jacoby.

Choudhary said the Internet-enabled televisions, Blu-ray players and companion boxes from Sony and Logitech, which are powered by Intel Atom computer chips, would be available this fall through Best Buy stores.

Logitech boxes will feature computer keyboards that act as Google TV remote controls. On-screen home pages will let people search television programming as they do the Internet.

Sony chief executive Howard Stringer described it as "a very big deal."

"I can't stress that enough," Stringer said on stage. "When you put all this, as we've done for the fall, into the world's first Internet television, the opportunities are, in a sense, just mind boggling."

Google did not announce pricing for the TV sets or the set-top boxes.

Sony is among the electronics companies that have brought Internet-capable televisions to market, but those sets have typically been limited to letting people access specific websites such as Yahoo! or YouTube.

"This is a much broader platform," Stringer said of Google TV. "This is a much more robust platform which is expandable and grows. It's going to be an eye opener."

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