After nearly two years of availability in the United States, Sony is updating its Google TV offerings running on the Android platform, and making them available in a number of international markets. With the upcoming release of the NSZ-GS7 Internet Player and NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray Disc player with Google TV, Sony will be the first major manufacturer to launch Google TV devices outside the U.S. Both units will also come with a redesigned remote control that features a touchpad and QWERTY keypad for easier navigation of content on the big screen.

Two years ago, Sony introduced its first Google TV model, which had a handheld remote with a QWERTY keyboard and other navigation buttons. The new version has a remote that more closely resembles a mobile phone, with standard navigation buttons, as well as a touchpad that lets users navigate icons and programs on the TV with their fingertips.

Turn the remote over, and there's a full, backlit QWERTY keyboard for entering text for messaging, searching and completing other alphanumeric actions on Google TV. The remote is orientation aware, so if you're using the QWERTY keyboard, it will ignore any accidentally-pressed navigation buttons on the other side of the remote. The remote also has a three-axis motion sensor that will be useful for playing games, and controlling apps.

The Google TV remote control can also be used to control additional devices connected to the TV, such as cable and satellite set-top-boxes, or DVD players. For devices that can't connect via Bluetooth and only receive signals via infrared, Sony also includes an IR blaster that plugs into the rear of the set top box to relay signals from the remote to other connected devices. This also allows the equipment to be hidden away inside a cabinet. The NSZ-GS7 has one HDMI in (for pass through of a device such as a cable box), and one HDMI out connection, along with digital optical out, Ethernet and two USB ports on the rear.

Sony's Google TV devices can also connect via Bluetooth to an Android or iOS phone or tablet running Sony's free Media Remote App, allowing scrolling and search by voice using the connected mobile device. Users can also "catch & throw" content from one device to the TV. If you are watching a video on YouTube on your phone, for example, you can "throw" the URL to the TV, which will open the page and start playing video on the big screen.

The NSZ-GS7 Internet Player and NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray Disc player with Google TV come with a built-in Google Chrome browser for internet searches and browsing. Google TV also features a Flash Media Player, so Flash-based videos will play with no problem on any TV.

There's also a new focus on Google TV in terms of apps that are built and optimized for larger displays. Google says that there are hundreds of apps that are optimized for use on a TV in the Google Play Store. One example is Sony Socialife, a social networking app from Sony that optimizes viewing of Facebook and Twitter photos and video posts for larger screens.

Other apps optimized for Google TV include lifestyle apps. such as offerings from QVC, SocialEyez TV, Steampunk Clock and Twitter. Music apps include Mediawall, iHeartRadio and the KARAOKE Channel. CNBC, CNN, Fox, CNET, and News Republic are among the news providers in the app store, while TV and Movie apps include Flixter, IMDB, RUWT?!, Thuuz, Adult Swim and Amazon Instant Video. While Google has a YouTube app, there are a number of other online video content apps, including Motor Trend, Nascar, Plex, Redux for Google TV and Twit.Tv. While some of the content partners are duplicated with apps, each Google TV comes pre-installed with Netflix, Pandora and Twitter.

By the end of the year, Sony's new Google TV set top box and Blu-ray player will be available in the U.K., Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and the Netherlands. Sony will make its NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV available in the U.S. on July 22, while the NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray Disc player will be out closer to the holidays. In Australia, Sony will start fulfilling orders on Google TV bundles with select BRAVIA TVs on June 28.

In the U.S. the NSZ-GS7 will be US$199 and the NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray player will sell for $299 when it comes out. Sony Australia said the NSZ-GS7 will sell for AUD$349 down under, but will initially only be available with the purchase of selected BRAVIA TVs.

Source: Sony and Google

Here's a brief promo video of Sony's new NSZ-GS7 in action.