Google and Linux are coming to your TV

March 18, 2010 1:02 PM EDT
In what may have been Google's worst kept secret in years, Google, along with its partners, Intel, Logitech and Sony, is on its way to delivering the Web to your television. What will they be using to do this? Why, they'll be using Google's Android Linux, of course.

Android is an embedded Linux that Google has already been deploying in phones like its own Nexus One and Motorola's Devour and Droid. But Android has always been more than just a smartphone operating system; it's also been used in netbooks and other devices. So taking it to a TV set-top box was an easy move for Google and its hardware friends.

In fact, Linux has long been a part of the TV set-top box scene. TiVo, one of the first and some would argue still the best DVR (digital video recorder) uses Linux. Many other DVRs and TV set-top boxes use it as well.

With Google TV, Google will likely be supplying Android as well as Web content from both outside video sources and its own, such as YouTube. Here, we don't know what's Google is up to, but I would be a very happy guy if they'd let me get to Hulu, Netflix, and Revision 3 on my television.

Intel will be supplying the chipsets for the Google TV set-tops, and Sony is expected to be including Google TV functionality in some of its televisions. Sony is no stranger to building Internet TV into its TVs. Several of the Sony Bravia line, for instance, already works with Amazon Video on Demand. Logitech, everyone's favorite mouse manufacturer, will be building the remote controls and keyboards for Google TV. As a long-time fan of Logitech's high-end Harmony Remotes, I think this was a smart move.

In addition to watching Internet TV with a Google TV setup, you'll be able to use your television as a monitor. Unlike the bad old days of early home computing, when using a TV as a monitor was a painful necessity, the Google TV's Android interface is being customized so that it will it provide a pleasant experience for today's high-end HDTV owners.

Today, while you can directly feed Internet or local video from your server to your TV, it's not easy. Programs like Boxee and devices like Apple TV can help, but you still need to be something of a computer and a TV expert to get Internet TV to work consistently well on your television.

I should know. I've been working with my Apple TV since the day it came out. But even now, getting video content that doesn't come from the iTunes Store into an Apple TV knowledge of video transcoding. A simple, easy-to-use, Linux-powered Google TV device may be just what's needed to take Internet TV from being a hobby to being the way many of us watch our TVs.