Google Tries its Hand at TV Failure

Google is joining the parade of tech shops marching out failed TV boxes.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Tech adores a vacuum.

The intersection of TV and the Internet has created a void that outfits like

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

,

Roku

and now

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

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) - Get Report

,

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

and

Logitech

(LOGI) - Get Report

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) - Get Report

movies and

Amazon

(AMZN) - Get Report

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.

Recall it was Google's financial commitment to WiMax that drew Intel,

Sprint

(S) - Get Report

,

Comcast

(CMCSA) - Get Report

and

Time Warner Cable

(TWC)

together to fund the ever-so-shaky

Clearwire

(CLWR)

broadband venture.

Google has a strong position in the confluence of TV and Internet, but it's not necessarily in hardware. It's software. A Google search application on a TV remote could fill a real void -- the need for a better Net and TV programming guide.

The box is dead, long live the box.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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