Google TV coming to the U.S. in the fall

Free service won't hawk content, due worldwide next year

BERLIN -- Google will launch its web-to-TV service Google TV in the U.S. this fall and worldwide next year -- but CEO Eric Schmidt said the Internet giant does not plan to get into the content production business.

During his keynote speech Tuesday at Berlin's IFA consumer electronics fair, Schmidt also addressed privacy issues, saying Google would not "cross the line" to allow personal identification via its mobile Android software.

Schmidt said Google TV will provide a seamless integration of Web and TV content, allowing full Internet browsing on equipped sets. Sony will be the first Google TV launch partner, with a Google TV-equipped HDTV and Blu-ray player bowing this autumn. Google said its TV offering will run on a new Logitech set-top box that hooks up to non-Internet equipped televisions.

Last week, Apple unveiled its new small-screen rental service that will rent episodes of TV shows in high definition for 99 cents a pop (so far, only Fox and ABC have agreed to supply content for the service). Amazon.com also is working on an online subscription service for TV and movies, similar to Netflix's online offering.

Schmidt said Google was working with various program suppliers and equipment manufacturers internationally in the Google TV rollout. He assured the audience that Google is not interested in competing directly with companies on content production.

"We will work with content providers, but it is very unlikely that we will get into actual content production, because we want the content providers to make money," Schmidt said. But Google TV, while free-to-use, will feature advertising, which could put Google in competition with traditional broadcasters for a piece of the global TV ad market, worth about $180 billion.

In Germany, the two largest broadcast networks -- RTL Television and ProSiebenSat.1 -- are seeking regulator approval for an online TV platform similar to Hulu that would stream ad-supported shows from all German-language channels. It is unclear whether RTL and ProSieben would also give Google TV online access to their content.

Schmidt's IFA speech was short on new announcements but heavy on utopian rhetoric. He spoke of a "golden age of augmented humanity" with information technology offering the potential to solve most of society's ills.

"Global warming, terrorism, financial transparency ... these are fundamentally information problems," Schmidt said. He also addressed invasion-of-privacy fears connected to the ways in which Google gathers information about its users and shares it with advertisers.

In response to a journalist's question, Schmidt said while Google would work to further personalize its searches, the company would not "cross the line" and develop personal identification software for its mobile phone service Android.

"One, it's illegal; in European law you can't use that kind of information. And it's a good law. And two, it's a significant invasion of personal privacy," Schmidt said. "We're not going to do it in the U.S. either. It's too creepy."

Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has put privacy fears on display in a new campaign. The group produced an animated video satirizing Schmidt as an ice cream salesman giving away free cones to kids while secretly spying on them. Consumer Watchdog is promoting the video online and on a huge screen in New York's Times Square.
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