Google is, once again, making a push into your living room.
It’s an effort the search giant tried—and failed—to do when it first debuted its Web-enabled Google TVs
in 2010. The goal then, and now, is to bring Google’s search and YouTube services to Internet-enabled
television—and capture a share of television advertising spending, which still commands the lion’s
share of advertising budgets.
But Google TV never lived up to its hype. Reviewers called it “chaotic,” major television networks
blocked their online content from streaming to Google TVs and consumers complained the system was
too slow and flaky to justify the price tag. Less than a year after its debut, Logitech, one of
Google’s initial manufacturing partners, abandoned the effort, called the partnership a “mistake”
and said it cost Logitech $100 million in operating profits.
But with Apple widely expected to debut its own full-fledged Apple TV– one blog reported that a
prototype has been floating around – Google isn’t giving up. It is determined to replicate the success
of its Android operating software for smartphones on television screens. This time the search giant
has partnered with set-top manufacturers LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio. It announced those partnerships
at the Consumer Electronics Show last January, but consumers weren’t told when they would become
available or how much they would cost.
Today, LG confirmed it would ship two Web-enabled Google TVs, a 47-inch screen (47G2) and
a 55-inch screen (55G2), to the United States and that they would go on sale later this month.
The TVs will cost $1699 and $2299, respectively.
John Taylor, a vice president at LG Electronics USA, said LG was unfazed by the failure of
first-generation Google television sets. “We think the next generation of Google television
is the marriage of improvements from Google and enhancements from LG,” he said in an interview Monday.
LG said the TVs will run faster than first generations of Google TV because of a new dual-core
processor that improves loading speeds. Another improvement is LG’s so-called “Magic Remote.”
The first generation of Google TVs were controlled by a clunky keyboard. Now consumers will be
able to control their set-top boxes with gestures and voice-enabled search. Users can swoop the remote
to change channels, the volume or play games. To search for content, they can tell the remote what
shows they are looking for and search for things like “Clint Eastwood films.”
Google said it upgraded its TV software last October to simplify the user experience,
enable more content and improve search capabilities. The search giant said it aims to give
television watchers “the guide of the future”—an effort that will allow consumers to search for
television content—whether it be shows, movies, live concerts or Internet videos—regardless of whether
that content comes from Netflix, live television or YouTube. Google TV will also harness consumers’
viewing history to make content recommendations.
In the future, Google hopes to use the television sets to beef up the audience for its Google Plus
social network. Google Plus will be integrated into future iterations of Google TV so that viewers
can recommend content to friends and do Google “Hangouts”—Google’s group video chat service—with
their friends via television.