Mark thought it would be cool to have a resource article about Google TV. I thought it would be cool to have one about the Apple TV (no, not really). So we compromised (or rather, I snuck off and wrote this instead). Instead of just limiting the scope of the article to one new TV product, I thought I would make it two in one since both Apple and Google are expected to announce new TV products soon. Of course, I can't write anything thing without putting my own thoughts in.
Google TV and Apple TV - Coming Soon
The upcoming iteration of Apple's TV is rumored to be $99 with 99 cent content available from iTunes. Google TV is taking the web to your television screen either pre-installed on new Sony TVs later this year or via a new settop box from Logitech (no pricing yet). It'll pretty much let you get any video you want from television or web.
Google TV vs. Apple TV - Which Will Be Better?
Well, they're quite different products, so to remove any potential confusion, here's a side-by-side comparison for you to decide which is best for you. Hopefully, over time Google TV will get incorporated into every satellite and cable box, because it's just that damned cool. There, I said it.
|Set-top Box||Will be available but also will be pre-installed on some new Sony TVs and Blu-Ray Players. Probably more deals in the future. Will be available at Best Buy.||It is only a settop box with several jacks on the back. Only available from Apple|
|Web Browsing||That's the whole purpose via built-in Google Chrome and integration of web and TV.||You would need to hack it and then not do software upgrades. Could void warranty.|
|Program Discovery||You can search for and find individual shows and channels on broadcast TV as well as web. Google Listen & Watch also features Explore for video podcasts.||Movie browsing by actor and director rented or purchased via iTunes.|
|Personal Video Recording||Can find a show, record it and then browse them later.||Not unless you hook the unit up to a computer and do all your scheduling, recording there and then import it to iTunes.|
|Content Purchasing||If it's web-accessible, like Amazon, Shoutcast, Rhapsody, Hulu, Vevo, whatever, it's accessible on Google TV. YouTube is also going to offer pay-per-view films if Google has its way.||Well, you've got iTunes. iTunes U and audible.com are not compatible even. YouTube is, but I wonder for how long.|
|Subtitles||Subtitles, Closed captioning and (as mentioned below) closed caption Google Translations (uber-cool!).||Close captioning is supported. Subtitles are not supported for most Apple TV or iTunes content. Would probably have to merge the subtitles with the video to view.|
|Non-video content||Photos, music, websites, games and Google Android Apps oh, and FLASH.||Audio in AIFF or WAV, Photos (JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PNG).|
|Video formats||If you can play it in a browser or Flash, it can be played on your Google TV. Bet it will do Silverlight eventually also.||H.264 but not H.264 Sample Aspect Ratio (at present). Up to 720p (1080i and 1080p support is removed in the new version). Not strong enough to do Silverlight.|
|Video Resolution||Fully HD compatible, if your TV supports it (the new ones with Google TV built-in surely will).||Max resolution is 720p at 24 frames per second or MPEG-4 at 432p and 30 frames/sec. Audio encoded in AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, AIFF or WAV.|
|Video Output||HDMI and other options to be available when necessary.||HDMI, Component video, (cables not included)|
|User Interface||Personalized TV experience via the home screen which can be setup how you like. Edit and access favorite channels, shows and websites.||Front Row software for Max OS X 10.5. Organized in six groups - Movies, TV Shows, Music, YouTube, Podcasts, and Photos|
|TV compatibility||No word yet on backward compatibility.||Cannot be used with older televisions unless 480i is supported with component video capabilities. RCA/composite and F/RF connectors are not included.|
|Hardware Partners||Sony (TV and Blu-Ray), Logitech (Universal Remotes, companion boxes), Intel (CPU power)||N/A|
|Hardware Specifications||Wi-Fi,Ethernet, HDMI from cable/satellite box, special DishTV integration, Strong CPU and separate GPU and dedicated DSP, keyboard and pointing device. No word on storage capacity yet.||802.11 b/g/n, Airport, 10/100 Ethernet - New Apple TV rumored to only have 16GB internal solid state memory.|
|Flash Compatibility||Full (as seen at the Google I/O announcement).||None. [chuckles to self]|
|Remote Control||Remote, Android Smartphone (can push web page from phone to TV), IP remote control protocol will be open sourced for apps on multiple platforms. [laughs at the thought of a Google TV remote app on an iPhone]||Standard Remote Control - volume control for music only. Standard infrared remotes can be paired to device. Remote App Wi-fi-based on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad.|
|Software||Android 2.1 (upgradeable), Google Chrome, Flash 10.1 plugin, Android Apps (can push from Web to TV). Android market and Google TV SDK to follow launch. Web and TV APIs that will let you access TV content from Web. Youtube Leanback, Google Listen and Watch||iTunes syncing capabilities and iPhone Remote app.|
|Subtitles||Merged Google Translate with closed captioning feed on TV for multi-language subtitles [totally awesome!]||It has a closed Caption Option but subtitles aren't available for most iTunes content.|
|Developer Friendliness||Will be Open Sourced to both Android and Chrome Dev trees.||App creation and usage? Coming soon they say.|
|Audio||Whatever the hardware can handle and the video offers. Depends on your home theater setup.||The chipset supports 7.1 Surround and some rentals have Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Digital optical audio, RCA analog.|
|Chris' Coolosity Meter||I need a Google Engineer to come expand my meter so I can rate it properly, or I'll just scratch the 13 over the 10.||Hmmm...3 out of 10?|
Google TV devices
Three will be available later this year. A full line of Sony TVs and Blu-Ray Players. Logitech is building a Companion box probably with keyboards and mice. Intel's Atom will power everything. Dish Network also partnered with them and will have an enhanced Google TV experience with seamless integration. Best Buy will have all the products available later this year.
In early 2011 the Google TV SDK, TV WEB API and Android Market will be available for developers. Summer 2011 it will be open source for Chrome and Android.
Apple's TV has a lively hacking community that have done both software and hardware hacks to extend the usability of the system. For example, the USB 2.0 port is made for diagnostic purposes only but has been hacked to allow for connection of external storage devices. Operating system hacks have also been made available as the community has been fairly unhappy with the Front Row implementation. XBMC Media Center and Boxee also have been made available through hacks.
It has a 160GB internal hard drive that some have replaced with larger versions. However, the box is not strong enough to power Silverlight so Netflix Watch Instantly is not supported. 1080 content could be also played through a hardware hack that includes adding a PCI-e card to the unit. There's no PVR support in the unit itself as well as no TV Tuner. Search only covers iTunes, not even local videos (My Movies) and does not even supply daily new releases. All content must be on the local/ drive in order to be played by Apple TV.
Here's What I Think
If you were asking me to decide what I wanted, I would have to say I want Google TV. No more pulling out the laptop to check something while the TV just plays the show. No more running to get more information from the web on the computer when I can do it right from where I am. Those oh so cool little pop-up web-like banners that broadcast TV has taken to using can suddenly be made interactive and you can picture-in-picture the web and the show you're watching, or have it auto-pause the show you're watching as you go surf the web...oh hell yes! Fantasy sports leagues are going to go gangbusters. Or imagine this...you're watching the latest episode of your favorite NBC show and you realize, "Oh Crap! I didn't see last week's show." Quick! Pause this one, hop on Hulu (if you're in their rather small service area), pull up last week's episode, watch it, then unpause this week's and bingo-bango-bongo, you're all caught up. Come on, that's pretty friggin' cool, ain't it?!
In fact, it's almost the future we've been eagerly awaiting with the super smart televisions that can do all sorts of things. I hope someone makes a voice control plugin for it so we can do things like we've seen in film. I'd name mine R2 and give it commands like "R2, today's weather," and "R2, calendar." After all, if you've got a Google Chrome browser, you will most assuredly be able to see your Google Calendar right? That also means checking your email on your monster TV while sipping your coffee or playing the latest Flash game, on your monster TV or doing just about anything...on your monster TV. I believe a hot diggity is appropriate right there!
R2, end program.