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Android Apps Get Big Break on Google TV

Google unveiled a software update for Google TV on Friday that includes a slew of apps.

These are based on Android 3.1, Google spokesperson Jacques Herbert told TechNewsWorld. This is the latest version of the so-called “Honeycomb” release.

An update based on Honeycomb has been expected for a while.

Sony, a long-time Google TV partner, reportedly demonstrated a Google TV set running Honeycomb at CEDIA Expo 2011, the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association conference held in Indianapolis, Ind., last month.

The Google TV Software Update

The Google TV software update released on Friday focuses on four areas: simplicity, improved search, a custom YouTube experience and Android apps.

The interface is simpler, the customizable home screen has been redesigned to offer swift access to an owner’s favorite content, and all shortcuts are shown within the “all apps” feature, similar to how it’s done on an Android smartphone or tablet, Google said.

The search feature has been improved across the board. Further, a new app called “TV & Movies” lets consumers browse through 80,000 movies and TV episodes across cable, satellite, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and other sites.

Google has also integrated YouTube more closely with Google TV search so consumers can turn any topic into a channel.

The YouTube experience for Google TV has been revamped so consumers can get to videos more rapidly.

Finally, Google TV now has access to the Android Market. So far, 50 developers have put up Google TV apps on the Android Market.

The update will be available on Sony devices early next week and on Logitech devices after that. More updates and more Google TV partners are in the works.

It’s The Apps That Count

Google reached out to devs to create apps for Google TV at the device’s launch back in May of 2010, so why have only 50 devs responded, given the phenomenal growth rate of Android mobile apps?

“We worked closely with these developers to get their apps ready for the update,” Google’s Herbert said. The update itself will include Android and Web apps from more than 100 partners when it’s released, he added.

More than 50 of these partners have developed new apps for the update, and there will be about 800 Android apps available on the Android Market, of which 30 will work well on television.

“With thousands of developers, we expect new apps to appear on Google TV all the time,” Herbert stated. Apps will be offered by partners including CNN Money, Flixter, Fox Business, Kraft Cooking, NPR, Motor Trend and The Wall Street Journal, he elaborated.

“Supporting a new platform such as a TV is not simply about porting the code over,” Simon Khalaf, president and CEO of Flurry Analytics, told TechNewsWorld. “It’s about developing a great experience.”

It will take time to develop Google TV apps, “but the excitement [among devs] is there, and in big numbers,” Khalaf added.

On the other hand, perhaps Google hasn’t funded app development efforts sufficiently, suggested Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Another factor could be that few Android app devs are really making any money, Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

Who Wants Set-Top Boxes Anyhow?

Longtime Google TV partner Logitech had to cut the price of its Google TV offerings twice this year, from US$299 to $249 and then again to $99, in an attempt to boost sales.

To put things in perspective, Apple quietly discontinued its 40 GB Apple TV set-top box and slashed $100 off the 160 GB model to bring the price to $229 back in September of 2009.

One year later, Cupertino announced a new version of the Apple TV for $99.

It could be that consumers may not want to shell out money for a set-top box from a third party when cable companies offer them as part of a subscription package, Enderle stated in a previous interview.

“HP was in this market and it got out,” Enderle elaborated. “NetGear and LinkSys had products that never sold well. The only product that has really moved well is the Xbox, but that’s probably because the vast majority of people bought it to play video games.”

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