What to expect from Google I/O 2012: The Google TV edition

It’s been two years since Google (s GOOG) first introduced its Google TV platform at its annual Google I/O developer conference, and the company has put a lot of effort into making 2012 the year that Google TV finally shines. So what can we expect to see on the Google TV front when this year’s Google I/O opens its doors in San Francisco Wednesday?
More Google TV. Google TV made a big splash at Google I/O 2010 – only to disappoint when it was shipping later that year. That’s why the platform had a remarkably low profile last year, with only one workshop trying to get developers excited about the second iteration of Google TV. This year, Google TV is definitely playing a bigger role. For the first time, Google TV has its own track in the I/O schedule, and multiple workshops are tackling the subject with different angles.
New devices. Google and its CE partners announced a number of new devices at this year’s CES, and we finally get to see some of them up close this week. Sony (s SNE) announced this weekend that its NSZ GS7 set-top is shipping around the world next month, and Vizio debuted its own Co-Star box today. Both boxes are based on ARM processors, and Vizio at least is finally making good on the promise of cheaper Google TV devices, retailing Co-Star for $99.
Both devices will likely play a big role at I/O as well, and Sony is even throwing developers a big party to get them excited about the NSZ GS7. But I wouldn’t be too surprised if we got at least one more hardware announcement out of I/O. It’s been all but confirmed that LG is going to produce a Google TV set-top box as well, which might be Nexus-branded and become a big part of Google’s pitch for the platform. There have also been persistent rumors that at least one more CE maker is going to join Google TV this year, but details on those rumors are scarce.
No new version. Google is set to announce version 4.1 of Android, code-named Jelly Bean, at Google I/O. (See Kevin Tofel’s take on what to expect from Android at Google I/O.) Google TV is still running version 3.2, and will do so for at least a few more months, or so I have heard from app developers. Google could in theory improve the experience by revamping some of the platform’s core apps, but it gave the TV and Movies app as well as the YouTube app a refresh not too long ago, so I don’t expect much news on that front. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Google could bring one of its other core Android apps to Google TV. Google+ anyone? Still, I wouldn’t place any bets on this, and believe that Google TV won’t look much different a few days from now.
More second screen action. Second screen apps have been a big topic in the Smart TV space in recent months, and Google doesn’t want to pass up this opportunity, given that it already controls a huge chunk of the second screens out there through Android. We can expect a number of announcements from Google’s partners in this space in the next few days.
More apps! Speaking of partners: Given the lack of a new version, it’s likely that Google wants to shine the spotlight on all the things you can already do with Google TV. The company will likely feature a number of partners, including cloud gaming provider OnLive, and put a lot of effort into getting developers excited about Google TV. And with a number of new devices coming out, this strategy might just work.