After being yanked from last year's show at the last minute, Google TV may be one of the big stories to come out of CES in 2012. The TV operating system - that is, software designed to be built into the TV hardware itself - has only been integrated into one product line so far. Sony's Internet TV sets were the launching pad for Google TV but due to various concerns no other Google TV-powered set has launched.
The problem is that Google was unable to strongly differentiate Google TV from the myriad other Internet-connected TV offerings. There was a lot of buzz about being able to use apps and surf the Web, but Google restricted apps such that only the major ones like Netflix and CNN - apps that exist on every other Internet-connected TV - were available.
Google recently revamped its TV platform and now offers dozens of apps ported directly from the mobile Android Market, but there still isn't a strong, compelling reason to buy a Google TV. Nothing makes it extraordinary.
What would be cool is if Google TV allowed you to chat with others in real-time while you're watching a show, or analyzed your watching habits such that it could intelligently guess when to change the channel for you. Those kinds of features would be exciting. What it currently offers is not so much.
That will soon change. Google rolled out a firmware update for the platform last year, giving users a much more user-friendly experience as well as access to a TV-optimized version of the Android Market, making it possible to run everything from social games to instant messaging apps from the TV.
Now, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio will all have Google TV products to announce at CES, which kicks off next week. We're excited to see what the future holds for Google TV.