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Google Intros Google TV, Adds Flash 10.1 to Mobile OS 2.2

Anyone following the flood of leaks knew it was coming, and now it's been officially announced: Google TV will be commercially available in the fall and will attempt to bridge TV and Internet content like no device before.

While there's no shortage of impressive connected devices that bring online content to the biggest screen in the house--such as Roku devices, PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles, and connected Blu-ray Disc players--they all make viewers choose whether they want to watch TV content or Internet content. The developers at Google think that that's too difficult a transition for most people, and so Google TV mixes the two.

In an impressive demonstration during the Google I/O developers conference's second day keynote address (one marked just as often with technical flubs as with digs at Apple), Google reps showed the crowd Google TV's many impressive features. The key tool is the search bar, which replaces the standard rotating programming guide and lets viewers select content much like they search for items on their computers. Enter the name of a program and the guide will tell you whether it's playing now or in the future, or all the places online that you could stream an episode. If you choose an online option, you're taken to the website instantly. If you choose to record a future episode, it will automatically set your DVR, if one is attached. Google has a partner agreement with Dish satellite service, which was used during the demo, and the presenter said that Dish customers would get enhanced DVR support. It wasn't clear how well the DVR features would work for people with other TV services.

Viewers will be able to mix online and TV content with Google TV, viewing a Twitter stream alongside a show or watching box scores during a game.

Google TV works seamlessly with Netflix and offers an easy browsing interface. The demo also showed Flickr integration, playing a slideshow of vacation photos on a large screen HDTV.

Hardware

Google TV will be commercially available in the fall. Customers can get it in a new line of Sony HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players, or on a companion set-top box being released by Logitech. Pricing wasn't given during the demo. The presenter said that Google TV would include a keyboard and pointing device for full Web use. Google also announced a partnership with Best Buy for distribution.

Components in Google TV will include Wi-Fi, HDMI connectivity with a cable or satellite provider, a fast processor using Intel chips, and the keyboard and pointer input devices.

More Bells, More Whistles

The presenters on stage wowed the audience with features never seen in any set-top device. Google TVs can be controlled by Android smart phones, so you don't need to use the included controller. Users can also start watching a video on their smart phones, then move the video to the TV for sharing.

All Android apps that don't require phone hardware will work on Google TV. Google's Listen podcasting app, now called Listen & Watch, will let viewers enjoy podcasts on their TVs.

By combining the closed captioning available on most programs with Google's translation features, Google TV will offer instant captioning for many languages.

A rep from YouTube was on-hand to show off the site's new Lean Back interface, which will deliver an instant-on TV-like experience. A rep from NBA.com showed how people will be able to schedule recordings from the Web site.

The SDK for Google TV will be available early in 2011, and presenters on-stage frequently exhorted the crowd to come up with their own applications.

Android 2.2

In another not-very-surprising announcement, Google said that he upcoming 2.2 Android mobile operating system release (dubbed "Froyo") will support the Flash 10.1 player and the AIR runtime. In jibes clearly aimed at Apple, the presenter said that Google was "open to innovation" and not exclusive.

Other improvements in the 2.2 update include a cloud-to-device API for downloading data automatically, the ability to load apps on the phone from the browser store without tethering, and the ability to save apps to an SD card.

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