Google Unveils Redesigned TV Service After First Try Falls Short

Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular Internet search engine, introduced a redesigned television service after sales of its initial version didn’t meet some expectations.

The software, which displays Web content on TV screens, has a simpler interface to encourage users to try more of the service’s features, said Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management. The new version, which also is designed to show the YouTube video-sharing service better, opens up the platform for Android developers to build applications for TV.

“This is one of the early miles of the marathon,” Queiroz said. “We’re running hard, and this is another important step in bringing this functionality to TV.”

Google, pushing into areas that boost competition with rivals such as Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., unveiled the TV service last year with partners including Sony Corp. and Dish Network Corp. Logitech International SA, another initial hardware partner, cut the price of its set-top box for Google TV earlier this year to attract buyers.

The new version helps users “discover” programming more easily as they browse rather than searching for it by typing keywords into a box, said Van Baker, an analyst with Gartner Inc. in San Jose, California. Still, the upgrade won’t necessarily persuade users that they should throw out their TVs.

“Is this going to cause everyone to go out and buy Google TV 2? I don’t think so,” Baker said. “It’s still a use model that most consumers don’t really understand.”

Sony, Logitech

Google TV’s software upgrade will be rolling out to Sony devices early next week and to Logitech soon after that. Google plans to make more software updates for the service in the coming months and make it available on additional devices running chipsets from new providers.

The company isn’t announcing new partnerships with television networks as part of the upgrade. After the initial debut of the service, Google failed to secure programming from the four major broadcast networks, led by CBS Corp. and News Corp.’s Fox.

Programming from Time Warner Inc.’s HBO premium channel, which is commercial-free, and the TNT and TBS cable networks are available on Google TV for customers who already have cable or satellite-TV subscriptions to those networks.

Google doesn’t intend for the product to be a device for “cord-cutting” from cable operators, Queiroz said.

“We’re working with a lot of cable providers and with networks to bring whatever content they think is appropriate to TV,” he said. “Our goal is really to bring content that adds value as opposed to replicate redundant content.”

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