Google is poised to invade your living room.
The world's three largest television makers — Samsung, LG and Sony — are working on Google TV.
LG announced its Google TV move last week. Vizio is also on board. Consumers can expect new TVs packing Google TV at stores in just a few months.
All but Samsung will show their Google-powered Internet-surfing TVs at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week for a glimpse of the future.
"There are over 80,000 movie titles and TV episodes available through Google TV," says Mario Queiroz, vice president of Google TV. "We're trying to make it easier for the consumer to find content."
Google TV allows people to surf the Internet on TVs, using its popular Chrome browser. In addition, it allows users to search a pay-TV provider's listings and offers about 150 apps to shuttle people to digital media.
The worldwide market for Internet-connected TVs is forecast to soar from $68 billion in 2011 to $122 billion in 2016, according to industry tracker IMS Research.
Sony was the first with Google TV-enabled sets in stores and launched with a keyboard in the shape of a game controller. "I think it's our hottest-selling TV," says Brian Siegel, Sony TV vice president.
The Google TV model from new entrant LG sports a controller that has a full keyboard on one side and a simplified remote on the other.
"With Google, we believe there's a segment of the audience that wants a little more interactive experience," says Tim Alessi, director of new product development at LG.
He says LG's first Google TVs should be in stores by early March.
Google refreshed its Google TV software in October, a year after it first launched to lackluster reviews. The first releases of Google TV products were slammed for clunky navigation. "Google first needs to redeem themselves from the flop that was Google TV," says IMS Research analyst Veronica Thayer. Since the navigation was improved, Google TV activation rates have more than doubled, according Google.
TV navigation has been a big topic of discussion going into CES as reports swirl that Apple might soon be a player in TV sets.
"Apple may have a very interesting approach if or when (its TV sets) come to the market," says Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin. "If you marry Siri (Apple's voice assistant in the iPhone 4S) to a very large interactive database, it could improve the experience."
Alessi says LG is ready to do voice navigation but is just waiting for the software to be added by Google. Queiroz declined to comment on Google's voice navigation plans for Google TV.
For now, TV makers "are on the right track to see where this will take us," Bajarin says