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Google Tries its Hand at TV Failure

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tech adores a vacuum.

The intersection of TV and the Internet has created a void that outfits like Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL - Get Report), Roku and now Google (GOOG) have been eager to fill. Call it the god box or the magic bridge that merges the parallel lanes of TV programming and Web content.

Google is working with Intel (INTC), Sony (SNE) and Logitech (LOGI) to develop a set-top box that hopes to deliver HBO and ESPN along with Facebook and YouTube to one screen, at least according to a report Wednesday from The New York Times.

The Google box, however, isn't answering a screaming need among consumers. Laptops and HD TVs have been happy living-room companions for years. If history is any clue, the Google box is doomed.

Google TV continues an inspired succession of failed efforts by tech shops seeking to marry the two screens -- computer and TV -- into one. A notable early entry was Microsoft's WebTV. WebTV was a kit that featured a keyboard attached to your TV for Net surfing and emails. It failed, as did AOL TV, a WebTV imitator.

More recently, a closely-held upstart called Roku caught the attention of some tech watchers a few years ago with its $100 set-top boxes that delivered Netflix (NFLX) movies and Amazon (AMZN) videos. But at this stage, Roku seems to represent a cul-de-sac along the road to Internet TV.

Apple felt the tug of the box and offered Apple TV. If Apple can't do it, no one can -- that seems to be the expectation here. But Apple TV is a dud, though the company says it is still working on the product.

So now Google steps up to the home TV plate.

Like mobile phones, broadband and books, Google sees TV as a big part of our lives and no doubt a great place to sell ads.

Google's role here is similar to an incubator -- or a rehab clinic -- for tech giants that have lost their way. Take Sony, whose relevance in entertainment has been slipping ever since the Walkman reached its pinnacle. It's easy to see why Sony would be interested in attaching its name to a Google project.

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