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Google's already released its first phone, the Nexus One, and now Google's reportedly set its sights on the television.
It's not exactly a Google TV, but an auxiliary device to get Internet content and applications on TV screens. It wouldn't be the first such effort. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), for instance, offers something similar with its Apple TV unit which has gone through several iterations and which both CEO Steve Jobs and COO Tim Cook have described as a "hobby" or experiment as it tests the market.
The alliance between Intel, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Sony, first reported Thursday in the New York Times, also includes Logitech, which has been tapped for controllers and peripheral devices such as speakers and a mini-keyboard. Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and Google declined to comment on the report. The Times story said Google will offer an open platform for developers based on Android, the open source operating system that powers the Nexus One, Droid and other mobile devices.
"This shows that Apple will have to compete in this market, the digital living room of the future. It can't look at it as a hobby," Phil Leigh, analyst and founder of research firm Inside Digital Media, told InternetNews.com.
Leigh said he thinks the alliance will create something that transforms the TV into a dual-function appliance that would bring consumers "a giant window into the Internet."
"Whether they produce something that's app-centric or browser-centric remains to be seen," Leigh said. He compared an app-centric model to what Apple's iPhone offers -- an online marketplace of games and applications -- while a browser-centric model would tilt more to providing services like music rentals as well as Web browsing.
"Either way, these browser or app-centric TVs are the wave of the future," Leigh said. He expects 2010 to be a proving ground for these new devices with broader distribution and sales picking up over the next year. "It all depends on how fast this collaboration can move ahead. He also said Sony, as "the most respected name in television," is an ideal partner to move the concept forward.
Yahoo's Connected TVs are already here
Google rival Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) launched its Connected TV effort last year, which brings certain Internet content, including its own branded finance, weather, video verticals and the Flickr photo service, as well as Amazon and social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
"When Yahoo Connected TV launched in 2009 we woke the industry up, and now you're seeing continued innovation from Yahoo as others test the waters," a Yahoo spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. The company already has partnerships with Sony, Samsung, LG, Vizio and Hisense.
"The Yahoo TV Widget platform works on all major consumer electronic device chip architectures worldwide, meaning that you'll see us expand into new devices, embark on new partnerships and expand our reach, " the spokesperson added.
Whatever the competition, Leigh thinks Apple has at least one distinct edge as it evolves Apple TV.
"There isn't a better remote control device in my opinion than some mutant form of the iPod Touch," he said.