The Obligatory Blog Post About Google TV

Now that Sony has announced its new TVs that will incorporate Google TV, the concept is beginning to look less like vaporware and more like yet another entrant to the coming content wars. So I guess that means it’s time to start blogging about it, in anticipation for when it’s finally released and we can get our hands on it and properly evaluate it.

In all honesty, back when the hype began about Google TV the first thought, dripping with sarcasm, that popped into my head was, “Oh great, another set-top box on the market. That’s just what the CE biz needs!” Yet, Google TV may have some differentiators that redeem it from being just another me-too STB, aside from being embedded in some Sony TVs.

I’ll admit that I’ve loathed the word “Convergence” since at least 1998, yet we’re finally starting to see a real merging of Internet content and broadcast content as devices arrive that promise to bring them together. Granted, Google TV is not the first such offering, although unlike Crestron’s ADMS Intermedia Delivery System, it’s substantially more oriented towards the mass-market (read: AFFORDABLE).

Up front however, at least until I get the chance to have an up close look at Google TV my main reservation is concern over whether the focus is on the quality of both the interface (how easy is it to use?) and the presentation of the media (how good does it look and sound?). Or, is the focus going to be on gizmos that scream Web 3.0, like the ability to “Fling” content from your phone to the TV screen to share with others?

I don’t doubt that plenty of people are on their smartphones while they’re sitting in front of the TV, because I do it all the time myself, but I seriously doubt that features like that will give the platform legs. Historically, gimmicky features seldom trump usability and quality. It reminds me of Picture In Picture on CRT and RPTVs when I was selling them back in the 90s: it was a selling feature, and customers thought it was a great idea when you made the sale, but after a week with their new TV in their house, they forgot about it and never used it again.

My other concern is the emphasis on using your smartphone as a remote control for your TV. Accepting for a minute that it will do great job of controlling your Google TV, how about everything else in your system? What about that legacy Blu-ray player, or heaven-forbid, DVD player? It seems premature to assume that end-users will forsake all other content in favor of Google TV.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to taking a closer look, not to mention watching this space as more brands bring similar solutions to market.