We've been hearing about Google TV for several months now, though the details on what it will be have been scarce. However, today that all changes. If you head over to Google.com/tv, you'll see that the search giant has finally started releasing some specs and information on their new television product, and it looks pretty cool.
Google TV Features
The first thing I did was click "take the tour," which also seemed like the first thing they wanted me to do, judging by this intro screen that greeted me:
And the tour walks you through several of the features of Google TV:
Search - "Television, meet search engine." Google believes their search technology can improve the television viewing experience, and at this point, I'm inclined to believe them. Google plans to allow users to search the channel guide, the app store, and the entire Internet, all through Google TV.
Web - Google TV is also equipped with the Chrome browser--what, you thought they'd use Internet Explorer?--and claims to let you browse the entire web from your television.
Apps - "Apps" are just cleverly re-named pieces of software, but they're all the rage. And so are app stores and marketplaces. Smart phones and the iPad have driven up the popularity of apps, so Google is predicting they'll be important moving forward as well--and I'm sure they will. And now you can get your apps on your TV, so that you can play Angry Birds on your 42-inch Westinghouse.
Remote - "Use your phone as a remote control. Control the TV with your phone, and even use your voice to search." Yes please. Sounds awesome.
Personal - When you boot the TV up, you'll get a launch screen instead of just the last channel you were watching. And that launch screen is customizable, allowing you to personalize it with your favorite channels and apps and YouTube videos.
Dual View - Picture-in-picture, to the max. Want to watch the big football game but keep your live fantasy football scoring website open in a small window? No problem. Or you can reverse it, and surf the web while the game keeps running in the corner. Awesome.
Enhanced - Here, Google says "Search and record. If you're a DISH Network subscriber, you'll enjoy enhanced features like recording and DVR access right from the search bar." So, that makes it sound like Google TV will integrate smoothly with your DISH Network DVR, but not any other kind of DVR, which is a shame. But I can only assume they're just ironing out the details on deals with other cable providers.
Easy - "It's easy to set up Google TV, and it works seamlessly with your existing TV and Internet." Well, everyone likes easy, I guess. But this next-to-last slide in their presentation is also the spot where I get confused all over again. Is Google TV a physical product or a piece of software? Because it tends to sound like both, or either, depending on the moment.
Why? - The final slide wraps things up and sends me on my way with one last bit of confusion-"(Google TV) is like an adventure where TV meets web, apps, search, and the world's creativity. Like Android, it will be an open software platform. From the start, it will be able to work with any TV. And before long, anyone will be able to build applications for it. The coolest thing about Google TV is that we don't even know what the coolest thing about it will be." What?! Is it really a great marketing strategy to say you don't know what a product is going to be? I mean, I get what they're going for... "hey, it's a brave new world of technology and Google TV is adaptable to what the future holds." I get it. But it just still feels a little... vague.
A lot of the features Google is touting are eye-opening and sound impressive, but seriously... some detail would be nice. I'm glad you're stoked about the future, Google, but it's hard for me to share the enthusiasm when you continue to confuse consumers about your new product. I guess, to an extent, Google doesn't need to win over the average consumer with a detailed Google TV explanation. They need only to win over the manufacturers, like they did with Android. But you can create a greater demand for your product when the audience understands it, and this feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to give the public a "Google TV for Dummies" overview.
Some Other Google TV Items of Note
- Google TV will also update itself "over the air," like your smart phone does, which is kind of cool.
- You can "fling" a video from your phone to your Google TV with the touch of a button. It would be cool if I could "fling" something the other direction as well, but there's no mention of that feature.
- Developers will be able to create apps and "made-for-TV" websites using the tools Google provides for their open platform.
Google TV Wrap Up
You can purchase Google TV as a standalone set-top box from Logitech (called the Revue) or in the form of a --presumably there will be more and more manufacturers offering televisions built on the Google TV platform moving forward into the future. There are precious few details available on the Logitech box--such as price, launch date, specific features--but they did release this odd-but-funny commercial to promote the Revue:
And for the Google TV-integrated Sony Internet TV? Yeah, sadly, it's not available yet either. But it will be within a matter of days, as the company has announced that October 12 will see the official "introduction" of the product. Whether that means a public demo or the device actually going on sale to the public remains to be seen. But here's a video from earlier this summer attempting to explain the Sony Internet TV With Google TV:
Google TV sounds like a winner to me. They've packed it with features I currently can't get in a television, and have left the platform open enough to allow for almost anything the future might hold. Apple TV, on the other hand, is missing many of these features and will not run on an open platform--both products mirror their respective parent company's approach toward mobile platforms, actually.
Consider me sold. And I'll tell you why: because every evening after dinner, I fire up the laptop while sitting in front of the TV. My wife and I watch some shows together while I also multitask on the computer--writing blog posts, doing research, or just regular leisure surfing. And Google TV is promising me the same experience on one device. Fantastic.
The future is here... We can now get picture-in-picture of our Internet and our TV. We can now speak to the television and have it listen and obey our commands. I wonder how much longer it will be until the television can talk back?