Scoop: Google TV to take on Apple TV & Roku with pure streaming boxes

Google (s GOOG) TV may be getting ready to take on Roku and Apple (S AAPL) TV with a pure streaming approach: Vizio CTO Matt McRae told me during an interview at CES that he expects Google TV devices with a focus on streaming apps to come out later this year. Asked about the future of Google TV, McRae said (on video below):

“You’re gonna see a plethora of new devices. Some will be probably pure OTT devices. Very small devices that just have an HDMI out and have a very simple remote control… that’s where you are gonna see things start to differentiate amongst not only products but different suppliers.”

He also hinted at the possibility of Vizio producing one of those devices to offer consumers multiple options for Google TV devices. McRae didn’t give any firm answer on when Vizio is going to start using Google TV as a platform for its own smart TVs, but said that it could eventually become “a mainstream platform” for the company. “We think it’s got legs,” he said.

In response to questions about its plans, Google offered this statement: “We are always talking with our partners to bring people more Google services to their TV.”

Current-generation Google TV companion devices all offer two HDMI ports: One to connect your cable set-top box to the Google TV device, and one to connect it to your TV. Google has in the past put a lot of emphasis on combining live TV with apps and online content, and execs have repeatedly insisted that Google TV devices aren’t meant to be used for cord cutting, but rather to complement your cable TV experience.

Ditching the HDMI input port for at least some upcoming Google TV devices would be a major departure from that strategy. It could help to make the Google TV experience less complex, and help to target consumers who are interested in a pure streaming experience.

This could also help to lift Google TV sales, as pure streaming devices have in the past done considerably better than Google TV companion boxes. Apple sold 5 million Apple TV units in its fiscal FY 2012, and Roku sold an estimated two million units last year. Google and its Google TV device partners haven’t released any sales numbers yet, but publicly available Google Play data suggests that there are still less than one million current-generation Google TV devices in use in the U.S.

Check out my full interview with McRae on Google TV: