Google launches smart TV service

Posted on Posted in Technology

Search giant Google has launched a TV service that unites live television with the web.

The "smart TV" service allows people to search both live channels as well as content from websites such as YouTube.

Special TV sets – or TVs connected to a Google box – will also allow people to access the web and download applications.

The first TV sets will be produced by Sony and should be available in the Autumn.

"Video should be consumed on the biggest, brightest, best screen in your house – the television," said Rishi Chandra of the firm. "That’s not the PC, or mobile."
‘Mobile impact’

Google showed off the service at a launch event in San Francisco that was plagued by technical glitches.

The service is built around an onscreen search box, similar to Google’s web offering, that allows people to search for content on live channels or the web.

Mc Chandra showed how searching the television programme House brought up results from live channels as well as web services such as Hulu and Amazon.

"The TV becomes a natural extension of the web," he said.

"You spend less time finding your favourite content and more time watching it."

The service streams shows from the web using Google’s Chrome browser.

The browser also allows people to search non-video content form the web.

"We can make your TV into a games console, a photo viewer or a music player," he said.

The first television sets will be built by Sony, who will also build the service into a Blu-Ray DVD player. Set top boxes and peripherals will be built by Logitech.

All will rely on an Intel microprocessor and will run Google’s Android operating system – commonly used for smartphones.

"We want to have the same impact on TV that the smartphone had on the mobile experience," said Mr Chandra.

The firm has also used the conference to launch various initiatives, including an update to its Android operating system and an open source video project called WebM.

The WebM project will make the VP8 video codec, which it acquired when it bought On2 for $133m (£92m), open source.

Codecs are used to encode and decode web video. Various formats are currently competing to become the default standard for web video in the future.

Several web browser makers, including Mozilla, which makes Firefox, and Opera, have agreed to support Google’s new format, which will be offered for free.

Another codec called H.264 has the support of Apple and Microsoft.

Whilst it will be free for the next five years, it is encumbered by patents and its owners MPEG LA plan to charge for its use.