It's been a long while since we've heard anything about Google TV, but the platform just got its big promised upgrade to Android 3.1, complete with an overhauled UI and support for apps from Android Market. Google says the new, more realistic goal for its TV efforts is to complement traditional TV services like cable and satellite with alternative internet viewing options, and to that end the company is bundling in a new TV and Movies app that functions as an integrated program guide with the ability to aggregate content from multiple sources, including live TV, HBO Go, Netflix, and YouTube. The YouTube app itself has been updated to feature dynamic "channels" that begin playing related videos as soon as you type in a search term—think Pandora for YouTube. These content-discovery features are the main focus of this version; Google told us that the apps and Market element will take time to build into marquee features.
That said, there will be apps, which is a very interesting first. Google says TV apps will fall into a few big buckets: video-delivery apps that simply play back content, apps that enhance the experience of watching TV (although not interactively), and standard phone / tablet apps that have been redesigned to work better on a large display. Unfortunately, there's still no AirPlay-like ability to stream things from an Android phone natively to Google TV devices, and it doesn't sound like Google's gotten anywhere with the various content blocks that have bedeviled the platform from the start, so we'll see if apps and content discovery are enough to kick the platform back to life. We'll find out soon enough: the update will begin rolling out to Sony Google TV devices on Sunday, and hits the Logitech Revue sometime after that.