Google TV Getting a Revamp in v2.0: Beta Details Inside

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Google TV, once hailed as the technology that was going to bring the Web to television sets, is not doing so great in sales as was first expected. Designed to be more of a secondary product to cable and satellite rather than to replace them, the Google software lacks important fuctionality needed to excel. But, good news: during the Google I/O developer’s conference in May, Google spilled that developers are working on Google TV v2.0, a big upgrade to the software to be built on Android 3.1, in a program called “Fishtank.” Although the news came over a month ago, specific details and images that were not released before were dispensed yesterday.

The Fishtank beta program contains about 50 people and includes developers who were accepted after submitting an invitation request during the I/O conference. Developers are shipped a somewhat simple setup, including an Intel CE4100 internet TV platform chip with Google TV 2.0 (beta), a keyboard that appears to be the virtually the same wireless Logitech Revue keyboard with a USB dongle, and a power cord. The device measures in at 12.5″ x 11″ x 2.5″.  

The Intel Atom CE4100 processor platform is Intel’s “System on a Chip,” and was originally under codename Sodaville. It was first developed in Sept. 2009, compiled particularly for Internet-connected set top boxes but also for Blu-ray players and digital TV. The platform has a 45nm architecture, which means it was developed be able to manage, for example, Internet-based features and content, Adobe Flash Player 10, and 3D gaming and animations. 

Although this is not yet confirmed, Logitech may remain a Google partner in v2.0 since the Logitech keyboard was included in the beta shipment.

The beta set top box includes a good amount of ports when compared to last time, including coaxial ports for users not yet onto HDTV. Since this is a beta, this and other included hardware might not make its way into the actual release. Still, it is safe to say that the new device will have a few more connectivity options than the current version. 

The beta runs on a less-involved version of Android 3.1. Its only pre-loaded apps have been confirmed to be a clock app, a live TV function, and a full-blown version of Google Chrome to make for easier browsing. This might not seem like much, but Google representatives did make it a point to announce that there will be “apps coming to Google TV” in the new version during the I/O conference. There has also been a tweak in the Android Market settings to include Google TV in the market’s compatible device list.

The graphical user interface still imploys the same dark blue and black color scheme, but has a new placement for options and items. Other than that, it’s hard to say yet what the revamped OS will look like, since there are not many apps to work with, and since this is only a first-look at the final result.

Speculation from the developers points to disarray in the live TV function. The developers are having an on-going debate with Google about the fact that the live TV plays and can be seen in the background even if you’re not watching it. Some developers say it would be best to display the live show in a smaller frame alongside text and information instead.

That’s about the gist of what is known so far. Developers are working closely with Google to bring along a (hopefully) better, updated version of Google TV charged by Android 3.1, GTV v2.0. And if it succeeds, better sales this time around will follow.

Pamela McCracken, Director of Public Relations at Logitech, introduces features of the Logitech Revue using the Google TV software at CES 2011



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