Google TV in Depth

Since my last quick post on Google TV, I’ve had a chance to watch the press conference in its entirety. At first I thought it would be more of a bespoke system specifically made for TV that would be more akin to an Apple TV in its presentation. While there are elements of Apple TV in this product, it’s more reminiscent of integrating a modified netbook experience into a TV.

There appear to be two main things that appear to differentiate this product from Apple TV and many other competitors. The first is that it actually embraces traditional cable or satellite set-top boxes by providing tight integration with the TV guide and DVR functions rather than ignore traditional TV like Apple have done so far. The second is that Google are trying to make the system as open as possible with a full web browser and support for Android Applications.

The big question on my mind is can they make this system scalable enough for casual TV users to be able to understand it as easily as current TV services, while still being able to provide more savvy web content watchers with the more sophisticated tools that they’re looking for? I think they can but it’s going to take time.

Google TV I think is really an experimental product and is bridging the gap until this type of technology becomes the norm for TV in general. It’s almost inevitable that at first there will be quite a lot of confusion about how to use the product and what exactly it’s capable of. Google are really pushing HTML5 and Flash in the browser as ways to provide specially modified experiences for known websites like YouTube and others. However, they’re also pushing Android Apps as another way of doing the same kind of thing, so it may be confusing at first as to what method to use for creating custom experiences for the TV screen.

I think when you compare this product to something like Apple TV, it’s clear that Google have the right idea. Apple are simply being too restrictive with their overpriced set-top box. It’s due for an update and I’m sure they’re going to try something similar to what Google are now, but Apple’s neglect of their device seems to be catching up with them now.

Google have a tough task ahead to convince the general public that this is what they need for their TVs, but for the tech savvy among us, I think it could be a hit in due course if they continue to develop it with a clear goal in mind and not over-complicating things. The full web browser should really be the secondary method for content viewing as I think designated apps are really what people are looking for when they’re operating the system from their couches. With that said, it’s hard to fault the inclusion of a fully compatible browser for situations where it isn’t yet possible to view content in a bespoke TV optimised way.

This product, including the set-top box and TVs with it built in will be shipping sometime in the Autumn. So I would suggest that you should probably avoid buying an Apple TV in the meantime unless Apple do a monumental refresh of that device before then. It would seem unlikely with Apple more focused on their iPhone, iPod and Mac operations.