Google TV Is Official: The Web And Pay-TV Have Finally Clashed

Google's own I/O conference in California is wrapping up today, but not before the company goes out with a serious bang. To our knowledge, Google is about the only technology company out there today that is big enough to throw their own party and get people to come, aside from Apple of course. One of the major announcements from today's keynote speech was something that had been rumored for awhile: Google TV.

Unlike what we had heard earlier, there's not going to be a special Google TV set-top box, at least not yet. Basically, Google is taking the Apple TV concept, but going way overboard by introducing apps, screen customization and channel searching. Google is really, really good at two main things: advertising, and search. TV is a huge business, far larger than smartphones or even the Internet. Far more people (four billion, according to Google's own research) have access to a television screen than a broadband signal, and Google is hoping to take advantage of that fact.

Google stated today that too many people are having trouble deciding what to watch, when to watch and where to watch content. Google TV aims to clean that mess up, by combining the best of the Web with the best of TV. The crazy part here is that this should work with any pay-TV provider, as the software to make this all work is simply built into TVs of partner companies. Sony has announced that they'll be one of the first to ship a Google TV-infused set, which will allow users to search for TV shows (on the Web and elsewhere) like they're used to doing on Google's other services. Google Chrome is built into the service, allowing users to access all of your favorite websites and easily move between television and the Web.

Following Google's own announcement, none other than Intel stepped in to provide some backbone to the story. Google is obviously using the big players to move Google TV forward, with Intel, DISH Network, Best Buy and Adobe firmly on board as well. Google TV itself is based on Android and runs the Google Chrome browser, and it will allow users to access all of their usual TV channels as well as a world of Internet and cloud-based information and applications, including rich Adobe Flash based content. The hardware needed to make it all happen is based around the Intel CE4100 CPU, the company's latest system-on-chip designed to power these types of applications. If you wondered how this would work with multiple pay-TV carriers, you can still keep the mystery alive; but that said, we are told that DISH Network will be the first launch partner, so those using DISH now are most likely to get first dibs.

To navigate the array of content that will now be available through a single device and on a single screen, Google TV introduces an integrated search experience to help viewers easily find relevant content across over-the-air and pay-TV channel listings, DVR, and the Internet, as well as a picture-in-picture layout to access multiple windows simultaneously. Google TV also features an innovative home screen to help viewers quickly organize their favorite content and personalize their TV viewing experience. Some of these features are only available with advanced integration from DISH Network, so it's unclear how they'll translate with "other carriers."

It's somewhat difficult to describe in words how this changes the TV experience (it's pretty massive!), so we'll let Google attempt below and point you this video to get a better understanding. For now, you'll have to wait until later this year to see Google TV show up on that Sony set, but we're sure there will be lots of news on this front between now and then.

Google TV uses search to give you an easy and fast way to navigate to television channels, websites, apps, shows and movies. For example, already know the channel or program you want to watch? Just type in the name and you’re there. Want to check out that funny YouTube video on your 48” flat screen? It’s just a quick search away. If you know what you want to watch, but you’re not sure where to find it, just type in what you’re looking for and Google TV will help you find it on the web or on one of your many TV channels. If you’d rather browse than search, you can use your standard program guide, your DVR or the Google TV home screen, which provides quick access to all of your favorite entertainment so you’re always within reach of the content you love most.

Because Google TV is built on open platforms like Android and Google Chrome, these features are just a fraction of what Google TV can do. In our announcement today at Google I/O, we challenged web developers to start coming up with the next great web and Android apps designed specifically for the TV experience. Developers can start optimizing their websites for Google TV today. Soon after launch, we’ll release the Google TV SDK and web APIs for TV so that developers can build even richer applications and distribute them through Android Market. We’re looking forward to seeing all of the ways developers will use this new platform.

We’re working together with Sony and Logitech to put Google TV inside of televisions, Blu-ray players and companion boxes. These devices will go on sale this fall, and will be available at Best Buy stores nationwide. You can sign up here to get updates on Google TV availability.

This is an incredibly exciting time — for TV watchers, for developers and for the entire TV ecosystem. By giving people the power to experience what they love on TV and on the web on a single screen, Google TV turns the living room into a new platform for innovation. We're excited about what’s coming. We hope you are too.