Google TV, a platform that has languished since its introduction more than a year ago, has just received a much-awaited update, which adds a new interface, improved search features, and perhaps most importantly, access to the Android apps market.
As far as we know, the first devices to get the upgrade, built on Android's Honeycomb operating system, will be Sony's NSXGT1 Internet TVs and its NSZ-GT1 Blu-ray players, which get it next week. Logitech's Revue settop boxes will be updated shortly, according to Google.
Among the main improvements is a simplified user interface, including a customizable home page and an improved programming guide. Using an app called "TV & Movies," you can browse through movies and TV episodes, whether they're available from your TV service provider or from Internet sources, such as Amazon, Netflix, or HBO Go. You can also opt in to receive recommendations. The latest version of Google TV also includes an improved version of YouTube, which has been optimized specifically for Google TV.
The new so-called Google TV 2.0 update now provides access to the Android Market. While the company acknowledges the initial number of apps will be limited—those that require a touchscreen, GPS, or telephony won't be available—it expects the number will grow as more hardware manufacturers sign on to support the platform. Although some 1,500 apps can probably work with Google TV, there will be only 30 or so that were developed especially for TV displays.
Earlier this year both Samsung and Vizio said they expected to offer Google TV-powered Blu-ray players or TVs by the end of 2011. With the launch of the updated software—and new chipset partners—it's possible that more brands will come on board.
—James K. Willcox