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Google I/O: Are Google, Intel and Sony gearing up to change the TV experience?

The rumor mill suggests that Google and Intel will announce a deal with Sony to change the future of television at the Google I/O conference later this week.

I've argued in that past that every day that Apple hangs on to AT&T as its preferred carrier for the iPhone is another day that Apple gives the competition to come up with something that will challenge the mighty smartphone.

The same could be said about TV.

For at least a year now, Apple has been referring to its Apple TV product as a "hobby." There hasn't been any real investment in it - aside from a facelift a while back. And the company hasn't come across any compelling financial reason to push it forward, aside from some minor interest in online movie rentals.

That's given others a chance to keep working behind the scenes to develop technology that brings television into the 21st Century. If you believe some unconfirmed reports, one of the Web-based TV initiatives could be announced at the Google I/O conference, which kicks off Wednesday at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

A Financial Times report, which doesn't cite any source for its out-on-a-limb assertion, says  that Google and Intel will team to announce a platform called "Smart TV" at the conference, as well as a deal with Sony to bring the technology to its televisions.

The report claims that Intel’s Atom microprocessor and Google’s Android operating system are "spearheading their assault on set-top boxes and TVs featuring integrated Internet services."

The report does quote Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who told analysts last week that television is about to go through the single biggest change it's seen since the arrival of color programming nearly 50 years ago. There's no doubt that Intel is excited about the future of TV - just as it was when it announced that it was teaming with Yahoo on TV widgets back at the Intel Developer Forum in 2008.

The buzz around Google I/O is high, especially considering the rise of Android mobile devices, the excitement around the Chrome operating system, the push of Google Apps as a contender in enterprise software and, now, the future of TV.

The event kicks off Wednesday morning. If there's news around a new TV initiative, we'll be sure to report back with the details.