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Google TV Hardware Makeover Would Nicely Complement Software Upgrade

The Internet search leader plans to announce new devices from multiple hardware partners in the coming months

Google TV hardware needs a makeover as equally dramatic as the software upgrade it is set to get next week.

The Internet search leader plans to announce new devices from multiple hardware partners in the coming months, but it has so far been mum on the details. A good start: Ditch the keyboards that come with today's Google TV devices.

Upcoming Google TV devices may very well abandon physical keyboards in favor of touchscreen remotes. Some may even add voice input. Android-based smartphones and tablets will likely double as Google TV remotes as well.

Such changes would be welcome for a product offering that debuted a year ago but hasn't exactly taken the world by storm.

If you're unfamiliar with today's Google TV hardware lineup, here's the slim roster of players.

The Logitech Revue set-top box comes with a full-size keyboard, while the Sony Internet TV includes a handheld QWERTY keypad with far too many mini-buttons for a supposedly user-friendly device.

Seeing demos of these products months ago, one question was whether a physical keyboard, large or small, was compatible with the standard TV-viewing experience. The Logitech keyboard seemed too big, bulky, and awkward for sofa use. And the Sony keypad was too tiny and complex.

For users interested in browsing the Web on a big screen HDTV in the living room, there had to be an easier way. Few people want to use a full-size keyboard while watching TV. In fact, consumers have largely ignored the Logitech Revue, which has received mediocre to poor reviews.

Media streamers that have been successful to date, particularly Apple TV and Roku's lineup of inexpensive set-top boxes, have barebones remotes. Granted, neither is as ambitious as Google TV, which provides access to more Internet content, but the simplicity of Apple TV and Roku is part of their charm. Each offers access to limited quantities of online entertainment, including Netflix, but neither brings the full Web to your HDTV.

Interestingly, the rumored Apple HDTV set may run a version of Siri, Apple's voice-control software that recently debuted on the iPhone 4S, according to some reports.

Google has already taken a wise first step by overhauling the software for its TV offering.

As PCWorld reported Friday, the dramatic Google TV makeover adds support for Android apps optimized for HDTV sets, as well as a redesigned interface that's easier to navigate.

Now it’s time to address the hardware.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci at Today@PCWorld, Twitter (@jbertolucci) or jbertolucci.blogspot.com.


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