Asia, Europe face wait for Sony's Google TV

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2010 6:43 AM
Asia, Europe face wait for Sony's Google TV

Sony plans to introduce its Web-surfing Google TV in Europe and Asia but customers may have to wait more than a year and even longer if they're in China, a senior executive said Thursday.

Sony's new TV sets, developed with Google Inc., the Internet company based in Mountain View, California, went on sale last week in the U.S., with recommended retail prices from $600 to $1,400.

Yoshihisa Ishida, a senior vice president who oversees the Japanese electronics and entertainment company's TV business, said Google's precarious relations with the Chinese government make the TV's introduction there more challenging than in Japan and Europe.

But adaptations in services are a must to offer the product in Europe and Japan as well and he gave no date. When asked if it could be promised within 2011, he said it couldn't.

"We want to sell it as soon as possible," Ishida said. "But I cannot give a date now."

He was hopeful about the Chinese market because of its sheer size and number of Internet users, but said some obstacles remain for its going on sale there.

Google pulled its search engine from China in March, in protest at censorship, and its future in that nation remains uncertain.

"It's a big market," Ishida said. "We want to be able to offer it in China in some form."

Tokyo-based Sony's Google TV can show regular TV programming along with online content, such as YouTube and web sites.

It allows viewers to carry out Google searches much like a personal computer so they can look at information about a baseball team while watching a broadcast game, for example.

Other Internet-linking TVs are already available at stores, including those from Sony, but the latest sets developed with Google are "seamless," according to Sony Corp., meaning that viewers can hop from TV to the Internet easily.

Nose-diving prices have been a big problem for Sony's TV operations.

Ishida said the Google TV had to be sold at a reasonable price to compete in a market awash with less advanced but cheaper products.

He said that, in hindsight, Sony perhaps could have set the price higher because the feedback from buyers was that they thought they were getting a deal.

"That was a shocker," he said. "We could have priced it higher."

In three years time, some 70 percent of all TVs sold will likely connect to the Internet, Ishida said.

That ratio would be higher in developed nations, but TV sales are expected to be booming in emerging markets, and most of those won't be Net-linking, he said.