Google believes it has come up with the technology to unite web surfing with channel surfing on televisions.
To reach the long-elusive goal of turning TV sets into internet gateways, Google has partnered with Sony, Intel and Logitech International. They unveiled their much-anticipated plan for a "smart" TV, and Intel CEO Paul Otellini predicted the effort will be "the biggest improvement to television since colour".
"Our goal is to make the same impact on television as the smart phone has had on the mobile phone market," said Rishi Chandra, the Google product manager who is overseeing the smart TV project.
The TVs are expected to go on sale this fall in US Best Buy stores, with prices to be announced later in the year. Sales will expand to other countries next year.
Other companies have tried to promote internet-connected TVs with little success during the past decade.
"I have seen this movie before," Gartner analyst Ray Valdes said of Google’s ambitious plans. "They are going down a road littered with failed initiatives like this."
But Google and its partners believe they have developed a system that will make internet TV simpler and more appealing. They are also counting on various websites to build news applications tailored to run on the internet TV; they believe that would persuade more couch potatoes to begin interacting with their sets instead of just watching them.
Many households already have been connecting their TVs to the internet, mostly to watch video through set-top boxes, video game consoles and Blu-ray players. Web-connected TVs are expected to account for about 19% of the U.S sales of flat-panel models this year, with the share projected to rise to 46% in 2013, according to ABI Research.
Three of Google’s biggest rivals – Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo. – also have been trying to bring more internet video and services to televisions.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs once described his company’s device for tethering TVs to the internet as a "hobby". Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey expects Apple to become much more serious about its efforts now that Google is expanding into TV. "The whole game for Google is to become the (operating system) for the living room and make sure Apple doesn’t," Mr McQuivey said.
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