Web search king Google on Thursday showed off a risky attempt to marry the Web to television and reach the $70 billion TV advertising market, chasing a dream that has eluded even arch-rival Apple.
Developers at a conference applauded “Google TV,” and a slew of tech industry titans, including microchip maker Intel and TV maker Sony, sent their chief executives to announce they had joined the project and that TV sets would be ready in time for Christmas buying.
The key to Google TV is an on-screen search box, just like on Google’s Web site. The TV search box accesses Google’s search engine to look through live programmes, DVR recordings and the Web, delivering a relatively compact list of results that can be accessed with a push of the button.
Internet television has been a minefield for the world’s most creative and deep-pocketed companies, and in a sign of the challenge, embarrassed Google engineers struggled initially to get their TV running, asking the audience to turn off their cellphones, which were interfering with TV remotes.
Sony will build devices, marketed as Sony Internet TVs, to launch in the US in time for the 2010 holiday season — powered by Intel’s Atom processors.
Logitech International also will create a Google TV appliance that can work with current high-definition TVs.
“Video should be consumed on the biggest, best and brightest screen in the house. And that’s a TV. It’s not a PC or a phone or anything else in between,” said Google project senior product manager Rishi Chandra.
Best Buy will sell devices and DISH Network will integrate its satellite television service into Google TV.
Chief executives from those companies — as well as Google, Sony, Intel, Logitech and Adobe Systems — all appeared on stage at Google’s announcement.
Google executives said previous efforts had failed because they dumbed down the Web for television, were closed to participation by others, and made people choose between using the Web or television.
“It’s much harder to marry a 50-year-old technology and a brand new technology than those of us in the brand new technology industry thought,” Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said.
Reactions were mixed, and largely centred around the pricing of the set-top box.
“If this thing costs 900 bucks forget it. This is going to have to be right about where a phone is, 250 bucks,” said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney.