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Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is ready to step out of cyberspace and into your living room.
The Google TV team has lined up an impressive row of content partners just in time for the first hardware launches by electronics giants Sony and Logitech International (Nasdaq: LOGI ) . Time Warner (Nasdaq: TWX ) looms large in the starting lineup with both the movie-oriented HBO GO service and a bushel of cable channels from the Turner Broadcasting stable showing up. I've been telling you for years that Warner's home entertainment boss Kevin Tsujihara would be a name to watch in the digital era, and I believe he pulled some strings to make the Google TV thing happen for his company.
NBC Universal, embroiled in a never-ending quest to move away from current majority owner General Electric and into the arms of Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) , makes a token appearance with a stock-tracking service under the CNBC brand, but you won't see specific Google TV services from the NBC network. In fact, all of the major networks are absent at launch.
That's sort of alright, though. Unlike the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) TV box, where you're inexorably locked in to the content Apple provides for you through an iTunes-centric interface, Google gives consumers a full-fledged web browser on the TV screen with support for Adobe Systems (Nasdaq: ADBE ) Flash videos. Existing web-based video services like Hulu and the network-owned silos of primetime content haven't specifically said that their sites will work with Google TV, but then again they also haven't said that it won't work. I believe it's only a matter of time before the network giants decide to throw their support behind this platform; it's just a little too fresh and unproven at this point.
A range of exclusively digital content providers have also stepped up to the plate, Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) chief among them. Netflix never saw a content distribution channel it didn't love, of course, so that's no shock.
So the digital battle for your living room has started. It's Google versus Apple at this point, brandishing their Android and iOS platforms respectively. Others will undoubtedly make a play for this space after letting these pioneers break some difficult ground. The very experience of watching TV is due for another major revolution: DVR boxes, digital cable services, and on-demand videos are about to be joined by flexible, web-surfing phenoms, and nobody will want to go back to the dark ages after tasting this sweetly addictive poison. And don't forget that Google gets to serve a whole new form of advertising to this new wave of customers.
Is Google TV the platform that finally breaks Google out of the online advertising box where its revenues have been contained since time immemorial? I believe it is; discuss in the comments below.