ALSO SEE: Google Unveils Web TV
Chatter about a "convergence" between TV and PC has been going on since the mid-1990s. Many companies have tried -- and failed. But this week, that convergence may finally happen successfully.
Google is reportedly working with Sony, Logitech, and Intel to develop a new "Smart TV" platform based on Androidinternally code-named "Dragonpoint." It's likely that they're working with other companies as well.
Google's announcement will most likely take place tomorrow morning at its Google IO Conference in San Francisco, Calif.
According to the rumored plan, Sony will make Internet-connected TV sets powered by Intel Atomchips. Google will provide the operating system and system software. Logitech is working on a line of keyboards that would replace remote-control units.
Unlike previous efforts, which involved either connecting a PC to a TV, or watching TV on a PC, the Dragonpoint system would involve an appliance that is both a PC and a TV. It would look exactly like a big-screen TV, but the insides would also feature an Internet-connected computer.
This new type of TV may be called "Smart TV." Dragonpoint-based "Smart TV" form factors could include all-inclusive TVs, Blu-Ray players and set-top boxes.
Intel CEO Paul Otellini told the Financial Times that "The revolution we’re about to go through is the biggest single change in television since it went color." He just might be right.
The benefit for consumers is that they will be able to search for TV shows using Google searches, searching not only for titles, actors and other things, but also for dialog (by searching close-captioning streams).
But that's just the beginning.
Your TV Gets Apps
Google announced today a new App store for its browser called the Chrome Web Store, which becomes available to users "later this year," according to Google. The company envisions something similar for your TV.
Google will cultivate developer activity around Dragonpoint, so we can look forward to a TV "app store" filled with downloadable programs.
Sundar Pichai, vice president, Product Management, said at the IO Conference that he wants web apps to do "everything desktop apps can do." That's a goal of the Android-based Dragonpoint platform as well.
One example is an app called Clicker.TV. Google allowed a company called Clickerto show off its Clicker.TV app, which is an HTML5 application that runs in a web browser, but also designed for a TV set. The app offers TV shows that have been posted on various sites on the Internet, which you can choose and watch anytime you like from a single "catalog."
The Clicker web site boasts of "more than 650,000 episodes, from over 10,000 shows, from over 2,000 networks, 30,000 movies, and 80,000 music videos from 20,000 artists. "
(The company reportedly plans an iPad version in the future.)
Other apps could enable TV watchers to monitor Internet data, such as sports scores, financial information or even their own social networks, while watching TV.
One part of the business model is to be able to bring advertising individualized to each household to TV.
Your TV Gets Social
Trip Chowdhry, managing director at Global Equities Research, has called Dragonpoint a "social Internet computing platform."
He believes "Smart TV" will bring personalization and social networking to the living room. For example, two people on opposite sides of the country could watch the same Internet-based show (one that isn't live) at the same time, and chat with each other about the program.
It's easy to see how TV could be integrated with social networking. In fact, it's already happening on Twitter. TV shows and events always trend very high on Twitter searches. Users discuss TV shows as they're broadcast, and very often reference shows with links that enable followers to watch the show online.
If you move all this activity to the TV set, and provide users with a keyboard, it's not hard to imagine the social stream and TV show displayed at the same time, or social networking links that play the show on the TV set.
Your TV Goes Mobile
One of the overarching goals of Google's Android initiative, including its Dragonpoint variant, is to enable developers to build once and deploy everywhere. That means the "Smart TV" idea can be deployed on an Android tablet, with cross-platform interaction.
For example, you should be able to watch TV on a tablet, and pause a show. Later, at home, you could be able to continue watching from the same point.
You'll likely be able to use an Android tablet as a remote control, and record programs to a virtual DVR from the tablet that you intend to enjoy later on the HD TV in your living room.
Because much of the app deployment will be HTML5 and browser-based, it should enable "Smart TV" to be usable or accessible from competitive mobile devices, including Apple iPads.
When Can You Buy One?
Dragonpoint Smart TV sets should become available to the public in time for the holidays this year. In the meantime, Google will be working with application developers to make ready apps and services for the new platform.
Google's rivals have tried and failed to launch roughly comparable initiatives. Microsoft's Windows Media Center, WebTV and Microsoft TV; and Apple's Apple TV product; Yahoo's Connected TVinitiative; and others have all tried to bring together computers, the Internet and television into single products. But those products are now considered niche efforts that failed to change the way mainstream users watch TV.
I think Google's initiative is different. For starters, it's far more open, and uses open standards. Secondly, Google appears to be making an effort to enable a wide range of companies and application developers to make money, rather than simply trying to keep all the money for itself. That effort should result in wide-spread buy-in.
Also, its open nature might make the initiative more acceptable to Hollywood, which may balk at Apple's platforms, which always reserve a lot of control and revenue to Apple.
It's also the right time. All of Microsoft's major TV efforts were premature -- the market, the Internet, the application platform, Internet programming technologies and protocols were all not ready for the kind of broad-based effort Google is spearheading.
Do you want your Google TV? I do. And I think the TV-PC convergence will finally happen -- at last!