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Google TV armed with more entertainment options

Google emphasized at its I/O conference the availability of music, movies and TV shows for Android tablets and smartphones

Google at its I/O conference is emphasizing its growing number of music, movies and TV shows available for Android tablets and smartphones through its Play store, and those entertainment options will be available on Google TV devices in the future, the company said this week.

Users who own Google TV boxes will be able to stream movie content from the Google Play store in the next few months, the company wrote a blog entry. Users will be able to rent a movie on a tablet or smartphone, which can then also be viewed on televisions via Google TV.

Google TV is software available in set-top boxes and TVs and tries to solve the challenge of bringing classic TV and Internet functionality closer. For example, when searching for a specific movie, Google TV jointly lists results from broadcast, DVR and the Internet. A TV set can also be used to surf the Internet, run Android applications, or to stream movies from websites such as Netflix or YouTube.

Users will be able to access 100,000 movies and TV content through Google Play, wrote Catherine Liang, product marketing manager and Ossama Alami, developer relations manager, in the blog entry. The feature will be available in the coming months.

Earlier this week, Sony and Vizio introduced companion set-top boxes with the latest Google TV software. Sony is taking orders for the Internet Player with Google TV, which is priced at US$199. Vizio introduced the Co-Star box, which is $99. LG earlier this year introduced new TVs with the Google TV software.

The new devices from Vizio and Sony run a second-generation of Google TV software, a follow-up to original software in 2010 for devices running on Intel chips. The revised software is a reboot from the first version of Google TV, which was considered a failure as initial devices like Logitech's Revue set-top box and Sony's Internet TV did not find wide acceptance. Intel also scaled down production of chips for Google TV devices, with ARM-based chip makers like Marvell now filling the void. A lot of the products shown at the Computex trade show in Taipei earlier this month are based on ARM processor designs, with software development kits provided by the chips companies.

More partners will be offering Google TV devices in the coming months, Google said. The latest version of Google TV is based on Android 3.2, which is code-named Honeycomb. Google TV software based on Android 4.0, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich, is on the road map, a Google spokesman said on Friday.

There are some companies already offering TVs or set-top boxes with customized versions of Android 4.0, but they are not officially Google TV devices. Lenovo in China is offering a is television that recognizes voice commands and runs on a customized version of Android 4.0. At the Computex trade show in Taipei earlier this month, a number of companies showed off set-top boxes and TVs based on customized Android 4.0 versions with a Google TV-like interface.

Google at the I/O conference also announced the Nexus Q device, which streams movies and music from the Google Play store to TV sets and stereo systems. The $299 spherical device is a consumer product, while Google TV is directed toward device makers, the spokesman said. Users will be able to choose a Google TV device or Nexus Q to stream movies from the Google Play store on a TV.

Google is also hedging its bet on the second screen strategy for Google TV, where mobile devices like smartphones, tablets will be able to interact with the TV, much like a remote control. Users can browse for videos through a smartphone or tablet, which can then be played back on TV. Google is offering the Google TV remote application through its Play store to make this possible.

Google is also releasing tools for new developers to write applications for Google TV, including APIs (application programming interfaces), libraries, and code, the company wrote in the blog entry.

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 [email protected]


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