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Toshiba, Vizio Are Said to Plan Google TV-Based Products at CES

Toshiba, Vizio  Plan Google TV-Based Products at CES
Toshiba Corp. and Vizio Inc. plan to release products based on Google Inc.’s TV software, boosting the Internet search company’s efforts to bring the Web to TV screens, people familiar with the matter said. Photographer: Robert Gilhooly/Bloomberg

Toshiba Corp. and Vizio Inc. plan to release products based on Google Inc.’s TV software, boosting the Internet search company’s efforts to bring the Web to TV screens, people familiar with the matter said.

The two companies will unveil products at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, the people said, declining to be identified because the companies haven’t made their plans public. Samsung Electronics Co. is considering making Google TV devices as well, the company said.

The support would give a boost to Google after the company clashed with TV networks over allowing their online content on the system. Google is counting on the product to parlay its dominance in online search advertising into a foothold in broadcast ads. Until now, the software has been used only in televisions and Blu-ray players from Sony Corp. and in a set-top box from Logitech International SA, all using Intel Corp. chips.

“We are very happy with the launch of Google TV with our initial partners Sony, Logitech and Intel,” Google said yesterday in an e-mailed statement, without naming any new participants. “Our long-term goal is to collaborate with a broad community of consumer electronics manufacturers to help drive the next generation, TV-watching experience.”

Vizio was the leading maker of LCD television sets in the U.S. in the third quarter, while Toshiba ranked sixth, according to ISuppli Corp.

Toshiba, Vizio

“Google certainly is a key partner for us on the PC side and will likely be key for us on the TV side as well,” said Jeff Barney, general manager of digital products for Tokyo-based Toshiba’s U.S. unit.

Vizio, based in Irvine, California, doesn’t comment on unannounced products, said Chief Sales Officer Randy Waynick. Samsung, the largest maker of televisions worldwide, said it hasn’t committed to Internet-connected sets with Google’s browser software included.

“A relationship with Google TV is currently under consideration but no decision has yet been reached,” Cho Sung In, a Samsung spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Google rose $11.96 to $594.97 yesterday in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have lost 4 percent this year.

Sony televisions and Blu-ray players, as well as a set-top box from Logitech, went on sale in October using the software as the main interface. The products aim to make it simple for consumers to access all of their TV programs, movies, music and the Web through their home’s main living room screen.

Google TV software, along with a push into 3-D television, is key to Sony’s attempts to claw back sales lost to Samsung and other set makers. Intel Corp., which is supplying chips for Google TV, is trying to use the products to lessen its reliance on PCs by winning market share in consumer electronics.

Network Opposition

To do that, it will have to overcome opposition from content producers, including Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, CBS Corp. and NBC, controlled by General Electric Co., that have blocked access to programs available to computer users from their websites. Networks are concerned Google TV lets viewers watch pirated video on television sets.

The first Sony and Logitech products haven’t delivered on the promise of bringing easy Web access to the living room, according to reviewers.

It’s a “geek product,” said the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, while David Pogue of the New York Times called it an “enormous step in the wrong direction: toward complexity.”

Google TV’s backers are surprised by how well it’s fared after expecting purchases only by “earlier adopters” for the first year or so, said Lance Koenders, a director of marketing at Intel, whose Atom processors power the software.

More to Come

“For us to hit mainstream you have to continue to refine the product,” Koenders said. “Compared to most attempts at bringing the Web and TV together, we’ve made a big step. Don’t think by any stretch we are done with this product.”

That will happen, according to Rishi Chandra, who heads the project at Mountain View, California-based Google.

“We have to be realistic,” Chandra said. “We can’t build a product from day one that is going to work for everyone. It’s going to get better every day, whether it be us updating the actual software or the content itself is going to get better because new creators are coming in.”

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