SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Sony Corp is making its biggest push yet into so-called connected televisions, unveiling a line of Google-enhanced sets that aim to fuse TV and Web content together in the living room.
The electronics giant on Tuesday announced high-definition TVs that also allow users to surf the Internet, use apps, stream online content and better organize and search programing.
It remains to be seen whether consumers will be interested. Previous attempts to bring the online experience to TV have so far failed to impress.
But Sony, with the aid of Google’s brand awareness and what it called a massive marketing campaign aimed at younger consumers, hopes to convince buyers that the Web and TV can coexist simply in one device.
“There’s a lot of folks out there who want to see something more out of their TV,” said Jeff Goldstein, vice president of connected home products and services for Sony Electronics.
“I think the adoption rate on this type of device is going to be very fast,” he said.
Forrester Research expects 43 million U.S. homes to have a connected TV by 2015, up from fewer than 2 million in 2010. The research group said earlier offerings have not been powerful enough, and said many people who currently own Internet TVs never bother to connect them.
Sony’s Internet TVs, which come Wi-Fi-ready to connect to broadband networks, are built on Google’s Android platform and feature Intel’s Atom chip.
They start at $600 for a 24-inch model and range up to $1,400 for a 46-inch. Sony is also launching a $400 set-top box that has the same functionality as the TVs, and also includes a Blu-ray player.
The products go on sale Saturday at Sony retail outlets, and will be sold at Best Buy stores shortly after. Until after the holiday season, the Internet TVs will be available only in the United States.
The TVs and set-top box come with a novel hybrid remote control, a two-hand device that features an optical mouse and a QWERTY keyboard.
The key facet of Google TV is a search box that accesses Google’s search engine to scan live programs, DVR recordings and the Web, delivering a simple list of results that can be accessed with a push of the button.
Users can toggle between live TV, Web content or apps from familiar names like Pandora, YouTube, Twitter and the NBA. The TV feed can be locked in a corner of the screen, so viewers can surf and watch at the same time.
Apps from the Google’s Android Marketplace, optimized to run on TVs, are expected to be available early next year.
Google is partnering with Sony and others as it aims to expand its ad search business beyond its Internet stronghold into the $70 billion TV advertising market.
Last week, Logitech International SA showed off its $300 set-top box for Google TV.
Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Steve Orlofsky