Ina Fried

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Google TV Aims to Turn the Channel With New Release Later This Year

Google TV may not have won over many critics or fans with its first season, but Google still thinks it could be a long-term hit.

Before renewing the product for another season, though, Google is making a number of changes to the script. In addition to trying to make it more approachable, the company is hoping to change the way Google TV is thought of in the market. Initially, many people saw the product as a potential way to get around the big TV providers by using Web-based services. However, Hulu and other mainstream Web video services quickly blocked access via Google TV.

This time around, Google TV will be pitched more clearly as something that can add to a traditional TV experience, both through a wave of new applications and by delivering video that even the broadest satellite or cable package doesn’t have.

Google TV debuted last year as an option on certain Sony TVs and Blu-Ray players as well as via a set-top box from Logitech. However, it was met with disappointing sales and lackluster reviews. Logitech, for example, said it sold just $5 million worth of Google TV products last quarter, far less than it was expecting.

But Google sees the marriage of Internet and the television as in its early days. And it imagines the first version of Google TV not unlike the G1, the first Android phone. While the phone offered hints at what Google’s phone would eventually become, it was itself not much to look at and more than a little clunky. Over time, of course, Android became a major force in the smartphone business.

The first glimmers of the new TV will come next week at the Google I/O conference, where Google will present a session for developers on creating TV-friendly Android apps. However, the next version of Google TV and the TV-centric version of the Android Market won’t be announced until some time in the coming months, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The goal, sources said, is to have a new version of Google TV ready at least in time for this year’s holiday season. The company is bringing on additional hardware partners, including Samsung and Vizio. Business Insider reported that new hardware will be based on faster chips, although sources told Mobilized that existing Google TV models should also be upgradeable to the new software.

Google is not alone in chasing this Internet-centered view of TV, however. Apple has made the latest version of Apple TV based on Apple’s iOS. Although today’s version doesn’t support running third-party apps, the company has certainly laid the groundwork architecturally to head in that direction. Microsoft, meanwhile, is attacking the living room both by adding entertainment features to its Xbox 360 and by making its Mediaroom IPTV platform more app friendly.

Nor is this the first go-around at this. The dream of marrying TV and the Internet has been around since before the dot-com bubble with companies like WebTV and Wink all chasing the goal of bringing interactivity to the television.