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Forget TVs: The Sony Google TV Set Top Box Will Really Shine

Sony (SNE) announced all the details to its Google (GOOG) TVs, available to consumers by the weekend, but the biggest inroads will be from the less-hyped Sony Google TV set-top box coming at a later date. Cheaper and more flexible, the stand-alone device, not the more expensive TVs, will be the game changer.

The TV specs are solid in their own right. According to Engadget's Richard Lawler, Sony Google TVs will sport the following:

  • Four sizes: 24-inch, 32-inch, 40-inch and 46-inch
  • Priced $599 - $1,399
  • Edge LED lighting (sans the smallest, which sports CCFL backlit LCD)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • A large remote, combining the traditional Sony PlayStation controller with a QWERTY keyboard
  • Preinstalled apps include Netflix, CNBC, Napster and Pandora (more coming to the Android Market this Spring)
The prices seem in line with Sony's current line of Wi-Fi-connected televisions, which is both surprising and commendable.

However, Sony's real ace is the Google TV Blu-Ray player. In fact, it will probably have a much bigger impact than any of Sony's televisions. Here's why:

It's new technology cheaper: Cutting edge consumers aside, customers are wary of purchasing experimental technology (clinging to the adage that the television will be severely discounted as soon as they take it home). The $400 price point is a bit more expensive than a Sony PlayStation 3 bundle.

It has a dual purpose: In previous Gadget Watch columns I've said that Blu-Ray is becoming worthless, but it still can serve as an excellent safety net for wary consumers. They can purchase the set top and, if Google TV sucks, they can always use the Blu Ray player.

It doesn't require a new television: This is key. With Sony Google TV sets, Sony is essentially selling two things: the new format and the new television. Furthermore, anywhere from a third to two-thirds of American households already have at least one HDTV. The set top box becomes a complement to what they already have.

My BNET colleague Erik Sherman notes that the built-in Google televisions have a big advantage over the Apple TV set top box. I would add that the upcoming Google set top box also has an advantage over Apple TV, as its versatility and apps shows what Apple TV could have been.

Photo courtesy of avlxyz // CC 2.0