Sony has confirmed that it will be launching its first Google TV products in the UK this July, giving British consumers their first chance to try out the platform.
Sony will launch a set-top box priced at around GB£ 200 (US$ 311) next month, followed by a GB£ 300 Blu-ray player in October – both of which will come with an advanced remote control that includes a touchpad and full Qwerty keyboard.
The UK is the first market to see the set-top box, and will be followed by launches in Canada, Brazil, Mexico,France, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia.
The devices will offer access to the Google Play app store and enable users to enjoy IP-driven apps and services on their television screen, including video services like YouTube and the BBC iPlayer, social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and an optimised version of the Chrome web browser – all while having live TV running in the background.
The products will also come with the Sony Network Entertainment app pre-installed, with Sony’s Music Unlimited service offering access to millions of music tracks, along with a variety of video-on-demand content.
Google’s Suveer Kothari, Head of Global Distribution Partnerships for Google TV, has indicated that these new products signify the start of a long European adventure for the Android-based TV platform.
Editor’s view: These devices look like a promising and powerful way of accessing Internet content and services on the TV – the inclusion of the Google Play app store and an optimised Chrome browser could be particularly enticing for many viewers.
They do however remain an expensive proposition, with costs not helped by the inclusion of a sophisticated dedicated remote control – at a time when other CPE manufacturers and TV operators are working on enabling users to control their connected TV experience via mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.
Also cause for concern (from Google TV’s point of view) is the growing trend for surfing the Internet on companion devices whilst watching live TV: many viewers are already demonstrating a preference for using the TV screen purely as a place to consume video, and using their smart phones and tablets to check email, post to Twitter etcetera.
When it comes to accessing Internet video services on the TV screen, British viewers already have a plethora of options: the BBC’s iPlayer for example is already available on all the main pay-TV services, as well as a range of connected TV devices which includes the Xbox 360 and Internet-enabled TVs.