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Sony to Sell HDTVs w/Google TV
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (October 13, 2010) -- Sony Style stores this Saturday will begin selling Sony HDTVs which include Google TV web service. Best Buy will likely start selling the sets about a week after that.

The Sony rollout will include four models -- a 24-inch set for $599; a 32-inch set for $799; a 40-inch set for $999 and a 46-inch set for $1,399. Each set will offer built-in Wi-Fi and come with a keypad and integrated mouse for typing in text.

Sony will also begin selling a Blu-ray player with Google TV inside for $399.

The Google TV feature, which includes an on-screen menu and operates on the Google Android system, will allow you to download Net-based apps just as you can on an Android smart phone. But the sets will also come with Netflix, Pandora, Twitter and YouTube and other pre-loaded Net services that will permit you to search for shows among channels.

"TV and the Internet, together at last." Mike Abary, a Sony senior vice president, said at a New York press event where the sets were unveiled, writes PC World Magazine.

Google TV is expected to be available in set-tops this holiday season. However, Sony said it would only be built-in Sony HDTVs during the rest of this year.

Swanni Sez:

Americans have set-top fatigue; they are not interested in buying new boxes to further crowd their living rooms unless the box fills a pressing need. A specific Google TV box does not fill a pressing need. Despite what Sony's Mike Abary, Americans have not been sitting around saying, gee, when are they ever going to bring TV and the Internet together at last. They are content with accessing the Net on their PCs, Macs and mobile devices.

But here's the good news for Sony: With Google TV inside (no box required), some consumers will take a chance on the new sets. Their thinking: Google TV comes with the set so I don't have to buy (or install) something extra to make it work. To a nation that's decidedly non-tech savvy, that's a plus.

However, there are still three obstacles in Sony's way.

1. The set prices are bit much; for instance, you can buy a very good 1080p 40-inch set now for less than $900. But Sony is charging $999 for its new Google TV-fueled 40-inch model. I'm not sure even the curious will pay a premium for a TV just because it has Google.

2. While the sets come with the convenience of built-in Wi-Fi, many consumers are still baffled about how to set up a home network system that would allow them to access Google's features on their sets. I know that may sound crazy to those who have long mastered home networking. But most Americans are still trying to figure out the difference between an HDMI cable and component cables, or even whether their sets are truly broadcasting in high-def. (Surveys show that some Americans still believe they are watching HDTV when they are not.)

Again, this is not a tech-savvy nation. It will take awhile before a majority of consumers are comfortable with the concept of setting up a wireless system on their TVs.

3. Most people simply want to relax while watching TV; they don't want to pull out keyboards and start typing Internet addresses or app names. It destroys the experience. So for connected TVs to have a bright future, they will have to enhance the convenience and entertainment factor of watching TV. By example, a Netflix app that allows you to watch movies instantly at home on your TV is a winner -- if the video quality is good, which it usually is. But a Twitter app which allows you to write on your screen while you're trying to watch your favorite show? No way.

In short, connected TVs have a future in America. But they are in their infancy and TV makers and their partners have a long way to go before most Americans feel comfortable with the idea. Industry companies need to reach out to make it easier for consumers to understand and use the new sets and set-tops.

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Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He has been quoted in dozens of publications and broadcast outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He can be reached at swann@tvpredictions.com or at 703-505-3064.

Click TVPredictions.com to read more news and features on TV technology. 

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