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Sony’s own research has identified consumers who are under 44 years old as the most likely buyers of the new Google TV sets. McQuivey thinks the market is probably even narrower than that right now, ranging mostly from people between 30 and 45 years old who have settled down into their own households and can afford fancy TVs.

Convinced the Internet TV will be the next big thing, other consumer electronics manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics Co., Vizio and Mitsubishi also are promoting Web-connected sets and Blu-ray players.

And after brushing off Internet TV as nothing but as “hobby” for years,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs appears ready to get serious about the market. His company last month introduced a retooled set-top box that sells for just $99. The Apple TV product is still more limited than Google TV’s system, but McQuivey said that may not matter to consumers who have come to love Apple’s “prettier and shinier” gadgets.

There should be ample opportunity to convert more people to Internet TV, given that McQuivey expects about 22 million new TV sets to be sold in the U.S. next year.

Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt appears fairly certain a lot of them will be showing content from the Web.

“Instead of wasting time watching television, you can waste time watching the Internet,” he said in a recent speech.