Samsung, LG to launch Google TVs, joining Sony and Vizio

Google said it has also added Taiwanese chipmaker Mediatek as it begins a crucial year for its nascent TV platform.

Google said Thursday that TV heavyweights Samsung and LG will launch sets that run its Google TV platform, with new models to be showcased at the International Consumer Electronics Show next week in Las Vegas.

The U.S. search giant has so far failed to impress the industry with the Internet TV platform it launched in 2010. The interface was seen as too confusing for lay users, and Google suffered setbacks as key supplier Logitech pulled its support after losing over US$100 million, and the major U.S. networks blocked video streaming from their websites.

But with televisions sets now seen as the last frontier for Internet content, after computers, phones and tablets, Google has steadily improved its Android-based platform. Google TV got a major software overhaul in October, and the company has continued to market it to hardware and component makers.

On Thursday, Google also said that Taiwanese semiconductor firm MediaTek would create chips for Google TV products, joining Marvell, and allowing more consumer products to enter the market. The new addition could help soften the blow of losing Intel, which opted to pull out of the TV market in October.

Samsung and LG will join Sony in launching televisions that run Google TV. This means that the top three global TV makers by revenue, according to DisplaySearch's numbers for the third quarter of 2011, now support the platform. U.S. powerhouse Vizio is also launching a new line that supports it.

Google's push comes as numerous reports say Apple is hard at work on its own TV platform, which may come as an overhaul of its existing Apple TV box or a completely new television product.

A separate battle is unfolding in the race to attract TV content, with online streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu in competition to secure popular programming. Google, through its YouTube property, is striving to add higher quality content to the user uploaded variety which made the site popular.

Google TV will also run apps on television screens, and the company said it now has more than 150. These include games, content from third-party providers, plus simpler apps, like one that plays high-definition video of a fireplace with jazz and rain sounds in the background.

LG, Sony and Vizio are all due to demonstrate Google TV products at CES next week.

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