Google Tries Again With TV 2.0 Overhaul

After dismal initial sales of Google TV-based products, the Internet search giant went back to the drawing board and is launching version 2.0 of the Web-centric software that it said simplifies the user interface and will make it easier for developers to publish apps for the TV.

"The initial version of Google TV wasn't perfect, but launching it gave us the opportunity to learn," Google vice president of product management Mario Queiroz and director of engineering Vincent Dureau wrote in a blog post Friday. "These are still early days, and we're working hard to move forward with each update."

Sales of the first-generation Google TV devices -- available currently from only Sony Electronics and Logitech -- have been poor, with the two manufacturers forced to slash prices. Google TV also lost a key partner in Intel, which recently shut down the division that developed chips for smart TV devices such as Google TV.

With Google TV 2.0, the company focused on four areas of user feedback: creating a simpler user interface; improving search features; optimizing YouTube for Google TV; and opening up the platform to mobile apps that have already been developed in the Android Market.

The new interface features a customizable home screen, providing a view of all shortcuts, "similar to your Android phone or tablet," Queiroz and Dureau wrote.

Google TV 2.0 adds a "TV & Movies" app, which allows users to browse through premium content available on live TV, Netflix, YouTube, HBOGo and other sources. A newly redesigned YouTube application is supposed to provide easier search and customization.

Finally, the new release lets Android developers bring existing mobile apps or new ones to TV, with 50 developers that have seeded the Android Market with TV-specific apps. Initially, "the number of apps won't be large," Queiroz and Dureau noted, adding that apps requiring a touch screen, GPS or telephony won't show up on Google TV.

One of the new Google TV apps is Turner Sports' Live, which lets fans access interactive features including HD video-on-demand clips, driver profiles, standings and schedules.

The Google TV 2.0 software update is expected to be available to Sony HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players starting early next week followed by the Logitech devices.

"This chapter is not about replacing broadcast or cable TV; it's not about replicating what's on TV to the Web," Queiroz and Dureau wrote. "It's about bringing millions of new channels to your TV from the next generation of creators, application developers and networks."

Sony, for its part, will offer its own applications, including TrackID, which searches and identifies music on television broadcasts, packaged media or streaming video. Another app, Sony Select, will deliver a curated collection of apps.

"Connected experiences are a pillar of Sony's value to TV consumers and Sony Internet Television powered by Google TV certainly brings 'smart' connectivity to the highest level," Sony Electronics executive vice president Steve Haber said in a statement. "We very much look forward to the possibilities the Android Market will create for customers to personalize their experience."