Faster Forward: Google airs more details about Google TV

By Rob Pegoraro
Monday, October 4, 2010; 2:59 PM

Google TV -- the Web giant's software package for finding and watching TV programming over the Internet and through traditional subscription services -- looks less vaporous now. Just in time for introductions of Google TV-enabled hardware from Sony and Logitech, Google announced further details about the platform it launched in May.

A blog post and accompanying video advertise many of the usual online video and audio services: movies and TV shows from Netflix or Amazon's video-on-demand service, shorter clips from Google's own YouTube, Web radio from Pandora, photo browsing from Yahoo's Flickr and so on.

But Google TV will also include a set of Web applications, some video-enhanced, from the NBA, CNBC and Twitter, among others. A "Fling" feature will let you toss the Web page or video you're viewing on a smartphone (presumbably, one running Google's Android operating system) to Google TV. And sometime early next year, Google TV will gain the ability to run apps downloaded from Google's Android Market.

But note some video sites not listed: Hulu (coming to Roku's Web-media receivers and TiVo digital video recorders), to be followed by some HDTVs and Blu-ray players), Major League Baseball's (already on Roku and in Boxee's software) and (so far, unavailable on any Web-media box).

And, of course, Google TV won't be able to play movies or TV shows streamed or downloaded from Apple's iTunes Store. For those, you'll still need to hook up a computer to the TV or get Apple's just-updated Apple TV.

Future Google TV software updates could fill in some of those gaps and add other new features (one interesting possibility would be simple video calling).

But they may not be able to do much about a basic vulnerability of Google TV: Its separation from the digital video recorder. Although Google promises a simple, searchable program grid in its software -- something desperately needed to manage ever-larger programming bundles -- it can't promise one-click recordings along the lines of what TiVo offers. Dish Network says it's configuring its digital video recorders for easy pairing with Google TV devices. But for other TV providers, you'll have to puzzle things through on your own.

So it may come down to balancing two different sorts of pain: the ongoing irritation of a dumb and clumsy cable or satellite DVR interface versus the onetime frustration of setting up a Google TV box to control that DVR through an infrared remote-control relay.

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