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Android invades living rooms with Google TV

Google shows off its attempt to let people watch both the TV on the web and use the web on TV, although it is only currently available for US audiences
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Google has introduced Google TV, the first non-mobile application of its Android operating system.

The platform lets people watch television shows alongside internet video, overlaying live video with the user interface on a standard domestic TV screen. It also provides a way of running applications and interacting with the internet using a standard browser, using wireless keyboards and mice as input devices

Google TV was unveiled at the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco on Thursday, with partners Intel, Adobe, Sony and Logitech all taking part in the announcement.

Televisions, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes with Google TV technology built in will go on sale in the US in autumn, Google said in a blog post.

Asked about availability in Britain, a spokesperson for the company was more circumspect. "As usual, we expect to make Google TV available in due course in other countries, but our plans currently only extend to the US," the spokesperson told ZDNet UK.

Running Android 2.1 and the Chrome browser, Google TV includes search across TV schedules and the web, programme planning and the ability to download apps from the Android Market store.

Google said that the Google TV software development kit (SDK) and web APIs for TV will be released "soon after launch" so that developers can create and distribute apps via the Android storefront. The source code for the platform will be made available to all in the summer of 2011, the company told ZDNet UK.

Google, Sony and Intel have previously been linked to a potential TV project. Samsung has also said it is looking at "a Google TV", but the hardware maker was not represented at the I/O conference.

Sony will produce the first complete Google TV, while Logitech is set to build a set-top box to plug into existing TVs. Logitech also plans to produce an HDTV camera for video chat on Google TV, as well as remote control software for smartphones.

The Sony and Logitech products are both based on Intel's CE4100 Atom SoC processor. The chip combines an Atom core with 3D and HD video accelerators, encryption and security, and various forms of audio and video I/O. It has hardware support for H.264 video decoding, among other codecs. However, it does not directly support VP8, the video component of Google's own WebM media standard. Likewise, it has hardware for digital audio in MP3, AAC and WMA formats but not in Theora, WebM's audio codec.

Sony's TV will be available in the US towards the end of the year, where Logitech's box is "expected in autumn 2010", according to a Logitech spokesperson. "We will start to see developments in the UK from 2011," the spokesperson told ZDNet UK.

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