A year after Google TV first hit the market, Google has announced the first major update to the Google TV platform.
The latest update is built on Android's Honeycomb operating system and Google promises a significantly simplified user interface. The update also finally enables Google TV products to access the Android Market and Google says there will be 30 TV-optimized apps at launch.
From the released screenshots, the new interface certainly looks to be a big improvement on last year's Google TV experience. There's a new section called TV and Movies, which presents a browsing-friendly interface that combines content from your cable/satellite service, Netflix, Amazon.com, YouTube, and HBO Go. It also includes pricing information and lets you filter by content that's currently playing live.
Search is also said to be improved and capable of searching through the same services available in the TV and Movies section. Google says search also does a better job of filtering outfrom accessing their services, which was a major problem with the older software.
The access to Android Market could be the killer feature for Google TV, but it entirely depends on whether it attracts developers. The list of Google TV-optimized apps currently available on the Android Market Web site is underwhelming, especially without major services like Hulu Plus or Vudu.
The lack of Hulu Plus also points to a more fundamental philosophy that Google is stressing in its promotion materials: Google TV isn't designed to replace your cable/satellite service, only augment it. Since Google TV is designed to work with an existing cable/satellite subscription, the lack of a Hulu Plus app matters less, since presumably you already have content from NBC, Fox, and ABC.
That's going to be disappointing to the growing number of cable-cutters who were looking to Google TV to bring the free streaming videos available on the Web to their HDTVs. And it's telling that of all the press photos released for this update, only one shows the Chrome browser in use.
The Honeycomb update will start rolling out to the Sony NSZ-GT1 and Sony NSX-GT1 series of LCDS on Sunday, October 30, with the Logitech Revue's update to follow "shortly afterwards." And while no new products are being announced yet, Google says there will be more devices coming in 2012.
We'll be getting hands-on with the Google TV update next week to see how it stacks up to the increasingly crowded streaming-video-box competition.