Google TV is yet another attempt to combine television and the Internet, a hardy tradition that goes all the way back to WebTV, and continues to the present with Apple TV and various video game systems like PlayStation and XBox.
So far television and the Internet haven’t been all that compatible a couple. For one thing, the number of available sites on such hybrids has typically been limited, so Google TV will aim to expand that considerably. For starters, users will be able to access YouTube videos, Hulu television shows, Picasa photos, Twitter, and their favorite Google applications such as Google Live, Google Maps, Google Street View, and no doubt eventually much more.
But also, watching television and surfing online have thus far been sufficiently different activities physically that most people find it awkward trying to combine the two. A monitor used to browse the Internet tends to be kept quite close at hand, for one thing so that reading text will be comfortable, while television is usually watched from several times that distance away. Also, watching television is mostly a passive activity with only the occasional need for a remote, whereas browsing online typically requires near constant use of a keyboard and mouse.
Not that such issues are insurmountable. Google’s partner in the enterprise Logitech has devised a remote for Google TV that will include a tiny keyboard. Awkward to use? Probably. At first. But people were successfully trained down from the roomy luxury of a standard keyboard to that of a cramped laptop, and from there to pecking out text messages on a microscopic phone, so anything’s possible, depending on precisely how it’s designed, presented, and marketed.
Google TV software is primarily open source. It’s based on the same technology as the Android operating system for Google’s smartphones, incorporating Intel’s Atom chips. Google also is providing an application development toolkit to third-party developers, in hopes of setting off a mutually beneficial flurry of innovation akin to what has happened with its smartphones.
Initially Google TV will rely on a set-top box, not to replace existing ones such as a cable box or DVR box, but to link to them, and is projected to cost in the $200-$300 range, though ultimately it could be built into the televisions themselves. Google TV will run Google’s new Chrome browser.
If anyone can make this work, Google and its dream team of partners-from heavyweights like Intel to anonymous third party application developers-would seem to be a pretty good bet. Perhaps we’ll soon wonder why it took people so long to switch over to browsing the Web on their spacious big screen TV rather than their little monitors.
Craig Agranoff, “Google TV is Coming and It Won’t Be Anything Like WebTV.” Rev2.org
Nick Bilton, “Google and Partners Seek TV Foothold.” New York Times.
Ian Paul, “Google TV: Five Burning Questions.” PC World.
Christina Warren, “More Google TV Details Emerge.” Mashable/Tech
“Report: Google Working With Intel, Sony on TV Project.” Wired.