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Sony launches Bravia Smart Stick TV dongle

Sony has taken another stab at Google TV with the launch of its Bravia Smart Stick, which plugs into the back of an HDTV for easy access to Google Play and Bravia apps.

The Smart Stick plugs into the MHL port on the back of any 2013 Sony Bravia TV. Like the Chromecast, it charges via USB, but the Smart Stick is a bit more full-featured than Google's £30 dongle, which one might expect given its $149.99 (around £94) price tag.

The Smart Stick, for example, comes with a remote that can be operated by voice commands or its keyboard. The Smart Stick taps into a user's cable or satellite service, so users don't have to switch inputs as they do with the Chromecast.

Once installed, users can search via Google's Chrome browser by voice or typing, and download apps. It will come pre-installed with apps like Netflix, Pandora, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, and more, but users can peruse Google Play or the Bravia app lineup for more options - like Facebook and Twitter. Google and Bravia apps will be housed in a single menu for easy access, Sony said.

"The Bravia Smart Stick's Picture-and-Picture feature allows viewers to surf the Web and watch TV at the same time in two independent windows on the television screen, without interfering with one another," Sony said in a blog post. "Perfect for Fantasy Football, with one screen showing the game and another showing live scoring updates of your fantasy league, it's also perfect for live tweeting or updating a Facebook status while watching award shows or other televised events and programming."

TV viewers, however, have been slow to add web surfing to their TV-watching experience. More and more people are using their smartphones or tablets as second screens to tweet about TV shows or sporting events but doing so directly on the TV is not as popular. Sony was among the first to partner with Google on its Google TV effort back in 2010, releasing HDTVs and Blu-ray players with built-in access to Google TV, but the technology has struggled.

Google has more success recently with its Chromecast dongle, which was a steal at £30. It is limited in scope - at present it can only tap into a handful of apps, like Netflix and YouTube. But other companies have said they are developing for Chromecast, potentially making it an affordable way to tap into the web on your TV.