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Facing poor reviews, Google TV pulls back on CES debut

Google TV had planned to use the Consumer Electronics Show next month in Las Vegas to showcase its new line of television sets that include Web access. Now, for the most part, the party has been delayed.

The “New York Times” reported last week that Google has asked TV set manufacturers like Toshiba, LG Electronics and Sharp to delay introductions of new TV sets using its software. The main reason is poor reviews from those who have tested it.

The “Times” report said Google’s delay had caught many manufacturers off guard. With its push to improve the lackluster software, Google, like so many companies before it, appears to be wrestling with the technical challenges that have kept Internet television from becoming mainstream.

Industry analysts also told the newspaper that Google’s sudden change of plans reflected a weakness in the company’s business culture around managing relationships with partners. “Google as a company is not a particularly partner-friendly or partner-focused,” said James L. McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester, who added that because of the delay, it might take another year before Google TV has a chance to catch fire.

Sony, an early Google TV supporter, acknowledged last week that reviews of its Internet-enabled Google TV had been mixed, but it remained upbeat about its prospects. Sony, which developed the Google TV with the Internet search giant, and Intel started selling models in October. Logitech, the Swiss technology company, also sells Google TVs.

Hiroshi Yoshioka, Sony’s executive deputy president and head of Sony’s television business, said sales of the Google TVs were “in line with expectations,” though he declined to give specific numbers.

He said sales were likely to pick up when more services are available from Google for televisions, including Android Market, from which users will be able to download applications onto their sets in early 2011.

Samsung now appears set to be the only new entrant to the Google TV market at the CES show, where it will present two appliances similar to those from Sony and Logitech. Vizio will also demonstrate its take on a Google TV, but will do so in private demonstrations off the show floor.

The biggest promise of Internet television — the ability to watch any show or movie at any time, streamed over the Web — is far from reality with Google TV. The major networks are not providing shows on Google TV. NBC, CBS, ABC and Hulu have blocked viewers from watching full-length shows on their websites using Google TV.

Google brings a sophisticated search feature to television. Instead of the typical cable and DVR programming menus that viewers navigate today, Google TV users can search for the name of a show and see when it’s being broadcast and where it’s available online.