The announcement is expected to be made this week at Google’s I/O developer conference in San Francisco. Web-connected TVs have been shipping for some time. But these latest TVs — including a Sony Bravia model — would use Google’s Android operating system and a consumer electronics version of Intel’s Atom microprocessor.
Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel, pointed out last week at the chip maker’s analyst meeting that the newest TVs have 10 million lines of software code, compared to a million for ordinary TVs, thanks to the computing ability and web-based user interfaces built into them. Eric Kim, general manager of the digital home division at Intel, also talked extensively about web-connected “smart TVs” last week that would have built-in Wi-Fi networking and the ability to surf the web via remote control. He said that Intel’s customers include France Telecom and Telecom Italia; more will be announced later in the year in what he called a “massive retail launch.”
“The revolution we’re about to go through is the biggest single change in television since it went color,” Otellini told analysts last week.
The new TVs will make it easier to watch downloadable or streaming movies via services such as Netflix, Cinema Now, Hulu and Vudu. You’ll also be able to Tweet or make Facebook status updates about the shows you’re watching, or view the photos that your friends post on sharing sites. TV service could also use the smart TVs to serve games to users over the web. Both Intel and Google declined to comment today.
There are already web-based TVs using MIPS chips and proprietary or Linux-based operating systems from companies such as Sony, Samsung, LG, Vizio, Sharp and Panasonic. They often use the Yahoo Widget Engine, which lets you view a subset of the web on the TV. You see a band of web site icons at the bottom of a TV and can click on them with a remote control to bring them up. It will be interesting to see if Google can make a good showing against Yahoo in this space.