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Google TV box gets movie streams from Android 4.0 smartphones, tablets

TVs will be able to play movies direct from Android 4.0 smartphones and tablets with a Google TV box under development

An upcoming Google TV box based on Android 4.0 OS and an ARM processor will come closer to smartphones and tablets with the capability to play direct movie streams from Android 4.0 mobile devices, a set-top box maker said on Wednesday at the Computex trade show in Taipei.

Honeywld Technology, a device maker, is making a Google TV set-top box that allow TVs to play movies streamed directly from Android smartphones or tablets, said Bryant Liu, a manager in the sales division of the company. The set-top box will also be able to synchronize multimedia content including pictures.

Smartphones and tablets users will need to install a specific application on their mobile devices to enable streaming and synchronize with the Google TV box, Liu said. That application is under development, Liu said.

The feature is much like that of the Apple TV, which can stream content from an iPad or iPhone for playback on a TV set. Samsung also offers a feature on its tablet to stream content to a Samsung TV. However, Samsung TVs are not based on Google TV software.

Honeywld will start shipping the boxes in Taiwan around July, Liu said. Honeywld has only 30 to 40 employees and cannot afford to sell the set-top box worldwide, so the company is showing the device at Computex with the hopes that third-party device makers resell the product in other countries.

The Honeywld set-top box has a Marvell dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, and runs a customized version of the Google TV software developed by the company, based on the Android 4.0 OS. The simplified user interface has a small video player, and a few icons that provide access to a web browser and links to sites such as Picasa and YouTube.

Google TV boxes running version 4.0 of Android, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, will become widely available worldwide starting in the third quarter, Liu said. There are just a few ARM-based set-top boxes already out, with some running the new version of Google TV based on Android 4.0 or older versions of the OS, Liu said.

The new devices also signal a reboot for Google TV software, which failed to find acceptance the first time round. The first version of Google TV was used in Sony's Internet TV and Logitech's Revue set-top box, which has been discontinued. In the wake of failure of the first wave of Google TV devices, Intel said it would exit the TV market. Google TV switched over to ARM processors with chip maker Marvell announcing support for Android-based software for TVs.

A price for the Honeywld box has not been set yet, but Liu estimated it would be between US$95 and $120. Users will not pay high prices for a Google TV box, Liu said.

The set-top box has 4GB of flash storage, 1GB of DDR3 memory and a MicroSD slot. The box also has ports for Ethernet and HDMI video. Wi-Fi is available as an option.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com


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