That set-top box from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is getting closer to your living room.
The New York Times is reporting that Google has teamed up with an all-star constellation that includes Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , and Logitech (Nasdaq: LOGI ) to bring a fully Web-enabled and Android-powered box to consumers. The newspaper's anonymous sources claim that this project has been brewing "for several months," and that this is the technology that DISH Network (Nasdaq: DISH ) is helping Google test right now.
"The partners envision technology that will make it as easy for TV users to navigate Web applications, like the Twitter social network and the Picasa photo site, as it is to change the channel," the article says. The platform can be worked into set-top boxes or directly into TV sets, and Logitech's custom remote control will probably include a full QWERTY keyboard for seamless searching and browsing. I would also expect that gadget to work like a Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) Wii controller, which lets you navigate on-screen environments by pointing the remote at the screen.
This four-way partnership breaks new ground in many ways. Sony hopes to steal a march on its rivals in consumer electronics by being first to market with hyper-connected media players and TV sets -- though heavyweight rivals like Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) , Toshiba, and Samsung are part of Android's Open Handset Alliance and could be working on their own Android applications for the living room as we speak. Intel hopes to push its Atom chips into new markets, and Logitech is simply firing slapshots from its wheelhouse at the blue line, doing what the company already does best.
Google has a two-pronged objective: Expand Web surfing into the living room with the commensurate extra ad clicks, and provide a natural platform on which to build a mechanism that serves personalized TV ads based on your browsing history. Some might call that an evil invasion of your privacy, but I call it smart business and the obvious way forward for Google and for an advertising industry that seems short on real innovation.
So there you have it, folks: A Google TV box or Google-powered TV set is coming to a Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) near you. We don't know exactly when, though the Times believes that "products based on the [Android TV] software could appear as soon as this summer."
We're standing at a cusp of a new era in entertainment and information history. Will the sea change be good or bad for consumers and investors? Discuss in the comments below.