Logitech Plans Companion Box For Google TV

Logitech is providing the companion box to control the Google TV service and remote controls to talk to the companion box

The Google TV service launching this fall aims to marry broadcast television content and Web surfing.

The platform, based on version 2.1 of Google’s Android operating system, will place the Chrome Web browser on Web-connected televisions from Sony that Best Buy will begin selling this fall.

While the excited chatter has been all about how Google’s Android and Chrome software are powering the service, consumers need the tools to access their favourite TV programs and Websites. That’s where Logitech comes in.

Logitech Companion Box

The peripheral maker is providing two crucial pieces of hardware for Google TV: a companion box and a remote control.

The companion box will connect to a television through and HDMI port. Users will control the set-top box through a new remote control keyboard with a touchpad. This remote will communicate with the companion box through Logitech’s Harmony technology.

Harmony enables users to control multiple pieces of entertainment gear. For example, Kevin Simon, director of product marketing in the digital home group at Logitech, said Harmony-based remotes let users control their TV set-top box, their TV receiver and their TV set.

The remote is the tool TV buffs will use to access a drag-down search box on their TV screen, where they will be able to flit from channel to channel. Users will be able to bookmark TV channels and programs with the Google Chrome browser the way they bookmark Websites with Chrome today.

Moreover, users needn’t switch back and forth between TV channels and Websites. Google TV is literally a marriage of TV surfing and Web surfing, so users will be able to minimize the TV program they are watching with the Logitech remote, then discuss the program with friends on Facebook, Twitter in the Chrome browser from the same screen.

“Google TV is about bringing the TV and computing worlds together in one single interface,” Simon told eWEEK in a recent interview. “Users will be able to watch TV programs provided by Cox, Comcast or any satellite provider, and watch accessible Web content from Hulu or YouTube in parallel.”

That means, yes, Google TV will enable users to put aside their netbook or their Apple iPad tablet computer to channel surf and Web surf, a marriage that has failed to work for companies in the past. However, the rumor is Apple is ramping up its Apple TV effort from hobbyist to contender status so stay tuned.

One thing lost in the hullabaloo over Google TV is that Logitech is also providing a high-definition video calling service for the service.

As the name implies, this will be a sort of Skype for Google TV to let anyone who has a Logitech companion box call another Google TV user with a companion box to have a video chat. That’s another layer of efficiency users may appreciate if Google TV takes off.

Google TV Platform

Ironically, that’s how Logitech became a big part of the Google TV platform. Simon said Logitech was working on this video calling app with Intel about a year ago when Google approached Intel about working on Google TV.

Intel, which provides the Atom system-on-a-chip processors for both the Sony Internet TVs and Logitech devices powering Google TV, introduced Logitech to Google.

Soon after, Logitech began working with Google to build its platform. Logitech hasn’t said how much its companion box or remote control keypad will cost users, though such boxes general cost $199.

The remote control is another story; we haven’t yet seen one like it.