Google TV launches in the UK

It’s already been available in the US for two years, where it hasn’t exactly been considered the biggest success. But, that hasn’t stopped the internet giant from continuing with its long-anticipated foray into the UK market.

Google has teamed up with Sony to join the smart TV battle for the British living room.

With Google’s features integrated into selected Sony televisions, users will be able to surf the internet, play games and watch videos on TV.

For those who don’t want to swap their current television set, Google is offering a “buddy box”, a small device which sits between your existing cable or satellite receiver and the TV. You can use the remote, or even your phone, to control your cable box, TV and stereo.

The gadgets are based on Google’s Android software for smartphones and are designed to let viewers switch between popular online applications like Twitter, Facebook or the BBC’s iPlayer, while watching live TV.

Google’s offering struggled in the US, where it was launched in October 2010, the same year the firm first announced its new concept. Its partner Logitech lost millions after launching a Google TV set-top box in time for Christmas that year. During one quarter in fact, more boxes were returned by customers than were sold and Logitech later pulled out.

The fiasco has clearly led to delays in launching the product outside the US but Google has now spent heavily to shape-up the device as the fight to be the smart TV of choice is set to heat up, particularly with the UK’s digital switch-over forcing many families to rethink the way they watch TV.

As Google owns YouTube, this features heavily on Google’s new service. But it’s not just about watching funny clips. It boasts an impressive library of movies, premium music videos and live broadcasts of concerts from across the world.

You can also check your emails, the latest news and the likes of Wikipedia on the big screen.

The first Google TV product, the NSZ-GS7 internet player is available now, costing £200. And, from October, the NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray player will arrive on the market at £300. They both come with an internet-connected remote control, which also has a full Qwerty keypad on the reverse to make typing emails and searching the net easier.

Suveer Kothari, Google’s head of global TV distribution, said this launch was just the “beginning of a long journey” for the company, which has lofty ambitions to push out internet TV throughout Europe.

“We think there’s going to be huge benefits from bringing the internet to TV,” he said “Google TV attempts to address the problem that there’s not really a great experience to access the internet on your TV screen, which is a similar problem we saw in the smartphone market five years ago.”

But Google is certainly not without competition. Broadcasting giant Sky just announced it was joining the Smart TV phenomenon with its Now TV offering and Apple TV and Microsoft’s X-Box already offer streaming services on demand.

Google, however, seems ready for the battle, with its CEO Eric Schmidt, saying: “We have very aggressive targets.” It just remains for consumers to stay tuned to see who, ultimately, gains the biggest smart TV market share in the UK.