Google has just debuted its TV platform at today's Google I/O conference. Project leader Rishi Chandra described it as "a new platform that we believe will change the future of television," adding that "we've gone from 100 channels that you find on traditional TVs to over a million overnight."
Yes, it mixes the Web with TV, as Chandra demonstrated in the somewhat glitch-filled launch (at one point, the audience was asked to turn off their cellphones, over fears that they were affecting the connection between the wireless keyboard and the TV). Users can pull up a search box via the remote, and search both live TV and the Web for their favorite shows. Type in the name of a show and you get listings for future programs on all channels, allowing you to record them if you have a DVR, or to stream the shows directly from Hulu and Amazon. You can also watch clips that you might have missed on the Web--Chandra demonstrated this with the State of the Union speech via the White House Web site.
Other highlights: watch live TV in a smaller window while you surf the Web, surf Twitter while you're watching a show, and view a playlist based on recommendations made by friends via YouTube. The system will also support Adobe Flash, which has been at the center of a public kerfluffle with Apple.
Google TV, which is built on Android 2.1 and the Google Chrome browser will be an open source platform, and run on TV sets, Blu-ray players, and companion set-top boxes. The proposed Google TV box includes built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and connect to your existing cable box using an HDMI cable. At the same time, Sony has announced that it will sell TVs with Google TV already built in.
There are all sorts neat little things that Google TV can do--for example, any Android phone can be paired with it to stream whatever you're watching on your phone to the telly. Android owners will be able to use voice search to find their favorite shows, and there's even a clever little app that allows you to subtitle what you're watching in another language. The firm is also working on new remote controls to avoid the necessity of using a keyboard to control the TV.
Google TV's partners include Sony and Logitech, with Intel providing the processor. You can buy it from BestBuy, and they're talking about a Fall 2010 availability. No pricing has been announced. The goal of today's unveiling was to stimulate developer excitement for the platform, and get them building apps that can be deployed on Google TV in 2011.