ARM Powered Google TV now confirmed officially by Google

Posted by Charbax – May 14, 2011

You got the tip from me from an anonymous source here since January (I have been speculating about it (2) (3) (4) for over a year), clues about it from ARM President Tudor Brown last year in November, and re-confirming rumors through Samsung in February, Google announced at Google I/O this week that Ice Cream Sandwich combines Android, Honeycomb and Google TV into one release (thus Google TV features on ARM), now it's being reported by PC World that Google TV product manager Rishi Chandra is confirming the ARM Powered Google TV platform like this:

for the price issue, Chandra said that Google has now qualified ARM chips to be used to run the Google TV software, instead of just the Intel Atom chips that currently power the Revue. Moore's Law–the inevitable increase in chip performance driven by increasing transistor density–will push the performance of the cost-optimized ARM chips up high enough to compete with Atom, while helping drive down the overall platform price, Chandra said.

I have thus far video-blogged over 60 ARM Powered Set-top-boxes from all the consumer electronics trade shows over the past 2 years, most are running Android, all of which could in theory run the Google TV software.

Of course, it is up to Google to decide what kind of hardware requirements they want to enfore for Google TV on ARM, if they want those to only feature the full suite of HDMI pass-through features, meaning HDMI input and output, Infrared blasters (to change the channel on your cable/satellite set-top-box), USB hosts, Bluetooth and more, then that would disqualify just about all of the ARM Powered set-top-boxes that I have filmed thus far. I wouldn't know how much more those hardware features require, and perhaps that requires an ARM Cortex-A9 at the minimum to run all the overlay user interface features and preferably 1080p at 60fps support at the minimum.

I think it is more likely and more logical that Google will decide to be as open as possible about Google TV on ARM, and thus support all the SoC that are currently being used and that will most likely be used. I think that means Google TV on ARM could work in "AppleTV/Roku mode", meaning no HDMI inputs, just the Google TV experience of bringing the Web and WebTV on the TV on this separate HDMI port to your HDTV. That is why I expect there to be two kinds of Google TV on ARM:

1. Basic Google TV on ARM, this is HDMI output only, Bluetooth or RF/USB keyboards with mouse pad accessory can be used. This solution could work on 100% of the ARM Powered Set-top-boxes that I have filmed. And I believe this will be included turning every Android Smartphone/Tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich and every Tablet with Honeycomb 3.1 into a Google TV "for free". See the Google Android Team's response to my question submitted on the possibility of turning all Android devices into free Google TV devices when HDMI is used:

2. The Full ARM Powered Google TV experience, including HDMI pass-through, IR blaster, USB hosts, Ethernet, etc.. Since Chris DiBona answers to my question above "There's all this other stuff that goes into a Google TV that isn't in a phone", well then, the Full ARM Powered Google TV will be that type that does it all. But that should not prevent an Android device with a basic HDMI output and not much else to still display many if not most of the Google TV UI features right there on the HDTV.

3. There is also a third scenario that I am envisioning, Google might use their Android Hardware division to plan out a new type of Multimedia TV Docking system for Android, using nothing more than HDMI, USB slave/host and evt MHL (that combines both into one Micro-USB connector). Basically the idea here is a cheap TV Dock that should work with most if not all Android Smartphones that have HDMI, USB (or MHL) to turn those into full Google TV, thus using the USB slave/host to transmit the right infos back and forward and feature in that Dock the right HDMI input and output, IR blaster, USB host duplicators, Ethernet connector, charging and more. The idea is a new Google Open Accessory design that could sell for $49 to dock any Android Smartphone with HDMI/USB or MHL and thus turn those into full Google TV. A solution which could evt also turn any ARM Powered Set-top-box into a full Google TV box also with adding the HDMI in/out, IR and more to those. Maybe it could be called the Google TV adapter, converter or extender.

Here's the 56 minute session on some of the Google TV Honeycomb 3.1 upgrades and development tools at Google I/O:

  • Craiger

    Charbax do you know if you will be able to view all network and cable shows on the new Google TV without them being blocked?

  • From that PC World article:

    “Chandra also said that he anticipated that more content providers would open up their content to Google TV and other platforms, as long as they can monetize their revenue streams. As an example, he cited Comcast’s “TV Everywhere” strategy, where content is available via multiple platforms, and subsidized via the monthly cable bill.”

    I asked my secret sources about why and how those TV Network websites can block Google TV, it’s mostly because of the Flash plugin in Google TV not showing itself as “Desktop/Generic User Agent”, that Flash player specifically announces itself as being “I’m Flash on Google TV”, so even if you change the settings to be Desktop User Agent, these websites can still detect a Google TV through the Flash plugin.

    I think Google, Adobe prefers to be as good friends as possible with the TV Networks and Cable companies, just in the probable case that they will all decide to allow Google TV through some sorts of monetization soon. For example, there could potentially be some kind of new payment for access. Or basically, logically, Hulu and Netflix should fully work on Google TV, as those are paid services, and as far as I know, they include a big part of the TV Networks contents in the USA.

    As for getting access to “all” contents, well, Google just announced 3000 movies have been added for viewing in the USA from 3 of the 5 major Movie studios. So I think they are on their way to trying to add as much as possible.

    While it may be hugely controversial, I don’t think Google will or can block BitTorrent use and perhaps also some type of unlocking of Adobe Flash plugin once the Honeycomb 3.1 update arrives on Google TV devices. So if the content owners don’t agree to make deals, my expectation is that piracy will run smoothly on Google TV and that in theory the Google TV box should be undetectable for TV Networks to block them as long as they offer video streaming on their websites.

  • Warrenbzf

    IR blasters will hopefully be obsolete as HDMI spec can allow for the connected devices to transmit the necessary commands to each other. Hopefully that will catch on and tthey will have all the necessary codes to interoperate between different manufacturers. We’ll probably need IR blasters for quite some time though.

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  • It is not so easy that it sounds about the ARM devices.  I think it is more likely and more logical that Google will decide to be as open as possible about Google TV on ARM. This is one of the best notes that you have posted over here, this is one of the best options for us to know more about this ARM.