Google Tries Again With TV 2.0 Overhaul

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After dismal initial sales of Google TV based
products, the Internet search giant went back to
the drawing board and is launching version 2.0
of the Web-centric software that it said simplifies
the user interface and will make it easier for developers
to publish apps for the TV.

“The initial version of Google TV wasn’t perfect,
but launching it gave us the opportunity to
learn,” Google vice president of product management
Mario Queiroz and director of engineering
Vincent Dureau wrote in a blog post last Friday.
“These are still early days, and we’re working
hard to move forward with each update.”

Sales of the first-generation Google TV devices
— available currently from only Sony Electronics
and Logitech — have been poor, with the two
manufacturers forced to slash prices. Google TV
also lost a key partner in Intel, which recently
shut down the division that developed chips for
smart TV devices such as Google TV.

With Google TV 2.0, the company focused on
four areas of user feedback: creating a simpler
user interface, improving search features, optimizing
YouTube for Google TV and opening up the platform
to mobile apps that have already been developed in
the Android Market.

The new interface features a customizable home screen,
providing a view of all shortcuts, “similar to your Android
phone or tablet,” Queiroz and Dureau wrote.

Google TV 2.0 adds a “TV & Movies” app, which allows
users to browse through premium content available on
live TV, Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go and other sources. A
newly redesigned YouTube application is supposed to provide
easier search and customization.

Finally, the new release lets Android developers bring
existing mobile apps or new ones to TV, with 50 developers
that have seeded the Android Market with TVspecific
apps. Initially, “the number of apps won’t be
large,” Queiroz and Dureau noted, adding that apps requiring
a touch screen, GPS or telephony won’t show up
on Google TV.

One of the new Google TV apps is Turner Sports’ Live, which lets fans access interactive features
including HD video-on-demand clips, driver profiles, standings and schedules.

The Google TV 2.0 software update is expected to be
available to Sony HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players starting
the week of Oct. 31, with the Logitech devices to follow.

“This chapter is not about replacing broadcast or cable
TV; it’s not about replicating what’s on TV to the Web,”
Queiroz and Dureau wrote. “It’s about bringing millions of
new channels to your TV from the next generation of creators,
application developers and networks.”

Sony, for its part, will offer its own applications, including
TrackID, which searches and identifies music on television
broadcasts, packaged media or streaming video.
Another app, Sony Select, will deliver a curated collection
of apps.

“Connected experiences are a pillar of Sony’s value to
TV consumers and Sony Internet Television powered by
Google TV certainly brings ‘smart’ connectivity to the
highest level,” Sony Electronics executive vice president
Steve Haber said in a statement.