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What's going on with Google TV?

Consumer Reports News: June 27, 2011 12:08 PM

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If you're like us, you've probably been wondering what's going on with Google TV.

After a flurry of announcements about the first Google TV-powered products—such as TVs and Blu-ray players from Sony and the Logitech Revue standalone set-top box—we've seen, well not much of anything. There were reports that Google, just prior to the Consumer Electronics Show in January, had asked manufacturers to hold off making any new product announcements at the show. Both Samsung (a Blu-ray player and a settop box) and Vizio did tout new Google TV-powered devices, but neither has shipped them nor given firm dates about when they'll arrive.

Then Logitech announced first-quarter results that showed sales of the Revue were far below its initial projections. Clearly the platform's launch has been underwhelming. That's caused people to wonder whether Google TV is already dead.

Based on what we've seen in recent weeks, we think the silence is more an indication that Google is revamping the entire Google TV service to address several key weaknesses—most notably the lack of support for a third-party apps market—that have hindered consumer acceptance of the platform. As a result, we think that you'll be hearing a lot more about Google TV this fall, as mainstream consumer electronics manufacturers announce support for the platform.

For example, during last week's CE Week event in New York City, Vizio told us that its new top-of-the-line flagship 6 Series 3D-capable LCD TVs, which include Google TV, will arrive later this year. The fact that Vizio, which already has a robust online offering in its VIA Internet platform, sees Google TV as a step-up online offering says a lot about what the company believes it can eventually deliver.

And just last week SageTV, a developer of home-theater media software, announced it had been acquired by Google. Since Sage TV makes both DVR software for recording content and Slingbox-style programs that allow users to view TV content from anywhere on the Web, it's not that much of a leap to assume that Google could use these technologies as Google TV enhancements. There's also speculation that Google may position Google TV as a set-top box application for cable and satellite receivers. And SageTV already has several content-licensing deals in place, something Google could leverage to expand its offerings.

So I think you'll be hearing more about Google TV as the summer progresses, with a revamped platform and more product support coming this fall. At the recent Google I/O conference, the company was reportedly telling developers a relaunch of Google TV—Google TV 2.0"—was in the works. If so, Google TV may soon start sounding a bit like the Concorde character from Monty Python and the Holy Grail telling Sir Launcelot, "I'm not quite dead....No, I feel fine, actually."

James K. Willcox

   

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