Google TV Highlighted on Logitech's New Companion Box

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Logitech on Wednesday took the wraps off a set-top box called Revue, which will be the first device to bring the highly anticipated Google TV platform to television sets.

The device is a "companion" box, and brings programming and movies from multiple sources including the Internet, broadcast providers, PCs and mobile devices to the large-screen TV, said Junien Labrousse, executive vice president of products at Logitech, during a product launch event in New York.

It comes with Google TV software, which is designed to blend Internet surfing with TV programming. Google announced the Google TV platform to much fanfare in May along with partners Intel, Sony and Logitech. Google at the time said the platform would revolutionize the way people watched television by merging the Internet and TV into a single interface.

Logitech's Revue provides a glimpse into Google TV's capabilities and its promise.

Consumers have access to a vast amount of content including videos, pictures and games from various sources using the box. Google's search capabilities will make it easier to find the right programs from the TV, Internet, digital video recorder or PC. For example, a search for a particular program could render listings from TV channels, YouTube or DVRs.

The device will also run specific applications to stream movies and TV shows from websites like Netflix or Amazon, or to access other Internet services like Twitter. Applications will also allow users to listen to radio from sites like Pandora, check stock prices or read newspapers and magazines from the Internet.

Google earlier this week announced content distribution partners for Google TV, including The New York Times, USA Today, Turner Broadcasting, HBO and the NBA.

Applications from the Android Market will become available next year, opening up the device to many more games, content and applications, Labrousse said.

Users can also watch TV and run an application simultaneously. For example, users will be able to check Twitter messages or sports statistics while watching a TV program. Users also can use the Chrome browser provided within the software to surf the Web.

The home screen provides quick access to applications, podcasts, videos, spotlighted programs and programs currently playing. Within the interface, programming and applications are broken down by category.

An application called Logitech Media Player also allows playback of video or music from home PCs. The device connects to a PC over a Wi-Fi network or Ethernet.

The companion box connects to a TV set or DVR boxes using an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) port. The device also ships with a controller that functions as both a remote and keyboard. A smartphone application from Logitech can also convert an iPhone or Android handset into a remote control.

The device also comes with Logitech's Harmony Link technology, allowing the box to talk with and take commands from multiple devices such as home theater systems using infrared technology.

The device will ship for US$299.99, which includes the controller. The device is available for preorder starting on Wednesday, and will start shipping by the end of this month, Labrousse said. It will be available in the U.S. in retail stores like Best Buy and online retailers like Amazon. The company did not immediately comment on worldwide availability.

Logitech is also selling a number of accessories to complement Revue. An optional $149.99 high-definition video camera allows for videoconferencing at a 720p resolution with friends through the TV. The company is also selling a smaller controller for $129.99.

With Revue, Logitech will compete with the likes of Apple, which makes the Apple TV, and Roku, which offers a digital video player that streams content from the Internet to TVs. A number of TV companies such as Samsung also have their eyes set on using the Internet to stream movies and TV shows. Sony has already said it would provide HDTVs and Blu-ray players with Intel's chips and Google TV software built in.

However, the device won't be able to download movies from the Apple TV service. It is also missing support from popular video sites like Hulu.

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