Google: The mastermind. Of the three major connected screens users have (TV, mobile, and computer), Google has made firm stands in only the latter two–and now they’re coming for TV. Google will be supplying the software for the range of devices (more on that below), which will be based on its mobile Android OS, but use Chrome as a browser in place of the Android’s diminutive version. But Android is open-source, you say–what’s Google’s motivation here?
Ads. TVs are becoming connected more and more, and Google has to step in and assert itself to make sure they can extend their services and their bread-and-butter, advertising. In addition, targeted ads, like the kind mobile Android uses, are a huge hit with advertisers, as they’re more likely to appeal to users than the random attempts we see on TV now. The new version of Android looks to be heavily modified from the current mobile version–it’s said to support streaming services like Hulu, which means it’s a considerably more capable OS than what we know as Android. But many of the specifics are still unknown, especially how Google plans to interact with live television.
Intel: The tech geek. Intel is the Q of the GoogleTV world; the chipmaker will stay out of sight, but without their gadgetry, the whole project wouldn’t run. Under the various hoods, Intel will be supplying Atom chips to power the devices. Atom is a low-power, low-performance line typically found in netbooks, but increasingly in home theater PCs like Acer’s AspireRevo. The problem with Atom is that in its base configuration, it’s an extremely low-powered chip. The AspireRevo makes use of a more expensive, much more graphically capable chipset based on the Atom called the Nvidia Ion. If Google’s boxes are going to run HD content, they’ll need some kind of graphics acceleration from Nvidia, Qualcomm, or Broadcom.
Sony: The brawn. Sony has been having a rough decade. Their marketshare is plummeting in every important category, the PS3 has taken them from 1st to a distant 3rd place in the videogame market, and despite having pioneered Blu-ray technology, they haven’t been able to capitalize with success in either the Blu-ray player or HDTV markets.
So Sony needs this–and they’re a big enough, capable enough, and hungry enough company to come in and knock the Google invasion out of the park. They’ll be making a set-top box for Google, assumed to be similar to the Apple TV crossed with a cable box, but they’ll also be packaging the custom Android OS into their Bravia TVs and Blu-ray decks. It’s not clear if they’re the exclusive hardware partner, but they’re the only company named so far–this could be Sony’s chance to rock the multimedia world yet again.
Logitech: The comic relief. Well, that’s not really fair; their part is just as essential as any other member of the Google Living Room Invasion Task Force, it’s just a little smaller. Logitech, makers of some of the best and best-selling accessories for computers and game consoles, will be providing the remote control–not a small feat, considering the remote will need to be able to control a TV, DVR, media streamer, Web browser, and social networking client (Twitter was named specifically). Apparently they’ll be packing a small keyboard into the remote, something like TiVo’s new remote.
The Google Living Room Invasion Task Force has an extremely difficult mission ahead of them. Android is a promising OS, but it’s totally unproven in scalability (laptops featuring Android are largely a joke), and Google isn’t a particularly accomplished interface designer. Besides that, they’ll be competing with long-running and well-received platforms like Boxee and Microsoft Windows Media Center, both of which are excellent but have failed to make much of an impact in the living room. And just to show how tough this mission is, even Apple gave it a try and suffered a rare (and complete) failure with the Apple TV.
Allegedly, the project is so far along that that little collaboration we saw with Dish Network a few weeks ago was actually a test, but no release date or timeline has been announced. But no company, even massive ones like Microsoft and Apple, have succeeded in this space yet: this truly is a near-impossible mission, but the Google Living Room Task Invasion Force may have what it takes to finally break it.
[Via The New York Times]