Google TV - An Inside Out Review

By the time my Google TV arrived, I was prepared to hate it. The early reviews had been bad, terrible in fact, and so I powered it up expecting a digital disaster.

Instead, I found a remarkably workable hardware/software combination that did everything that was promised.

Set up was a breeze, the shift from cable to web simple, and the device's ability to shift from various sources seamless.

So, why are the reviews so bad? And what is Google TV missing to be the hit that new web TV is hoping for?

Well, first--the bad reviews.

Most of the early adopters to the 'over the top' box world are looking to 'cut the cord' or already have. Google TV in the Logitech review box is built to embrace your cable box. In fact, cable is part of what makes it work. So, if you plug it in without cable, you get a web browser with just a handful of additional apps. This may be difficulty of trying to both disintermediate existing media companies and play nice with them at the same time. Google TV announces itself to the web, and for that reason--is being blocked by networks, Hulu and others. This while boxes like Boxee very much give users the power to break down the walls that separate the web from the flatscreen.

Google TVBut the thing about Google TV is that it is, at its heart, a text based search engine that hasn't been conceived to deal with the complexity and massive volume of web video.

If you take away the branded channels--the ones we think of as 'trusted' or at least known, then the gaping maw that is web video arrives on your Google TV with all of its noise and undifferentiated volume.

And while Google is promising an open source offering that will give Android developers the opportunity to build on the platform, the odds are it won't make things clearer--but rather more complex.

Instead, what Google TV should do is offer up curated web video filters, or personalities. Pre-built collections of links, sources, and feeds that load on start up. Of course you could modify these templates--but wouldn't you rather see web video as filtered by Robert Scoble or Jason Hirshhorn or any other trusted source who can create a curated collection of media.

You see, what video requires isn't what Google built for: text--but rather a different method that mixes technology and human filtering to create signal from noise.

Video, unlike text, doesn't lend itself to contextual text searches and inbound links to help determine the most well regarding links.

In fact, video with the key words "World of Warcraft Tricks" or "Canon DSLR Tips" could be anything from information, to humor, to manufacturer's PR videos. The truth is--searching text and tags simply isn't going to get you contextually useful video results.

android robotSo why am I optimistic about the future of Google TV and web video in general? In a word, Android. The little green robot is a powerful and growing development platform. And Google made the decision to release the hardware for Google TV months before the Android developers toolkit (SDK) that will give the developer community the keys to start building software for video. But rest assured the SDK is on the way--and developers will build for it. Just look at the developer community around Boxee or the hack community that has grown up around Apple TV. Web video is great big plum--just waiting to be turned into a plaything for hobbyists, hackers, and software developers. Google knows this--just look at the app market for the Android powered smartphones. The well respected Gartner Group projects the total app market will bring $4 billion in revenue in 2010, and grow to a remarkable to $27 billion by 2013.

Expect a software update in February (Google TV 2.0) that should coincide with the new Android 3.0 OS, named "Honeycomb" that could include the Android Marketplace on Google TV. That would be the starting gun for a whole new era of TV apps--and a fun chapter indeed.

Steven Rosenbaum is a Curator, Author, Filmmaker and Entrepreneur. He is the CEO of Magnify.net, a Realtime Video Curation engine for publishers, brands, and websites. His book Curation Nation is slated to be published this spring by McGrawHill Business. www.CurationNation.org

Add New Comment

14 Comments

  • Drew

    I made an impulse buy and dropped 27" tube for 40" Google.I all honesty the Ipad is highly restricted as well. HDMI out adpater is so heavily regulated I returned it. I usually live with things but felt this device was almost fraudulent in not revealing the limited use for streaming content. Of all the streaming content players Roku is the farthest ahead, and it is my opinion that non-restrictive licensing will win this developing market.

    If I had to do this over I would get a media PC hooked up to a monitor with built in cable TV tuner.

    Google TV will be a legacy device like many Sony technologiesif they do not bend and resolve licensing soon. I have written off Hulu and network TV for this device and it is now my 5 year olds personal toy. But he enjoys it and I am happy.

  • Nancy Medina Kochis

    Steve, thank you for such great information! The Logitech Revue product works better with DISH Network than any other tv provider. As an employee at DISH, I believe it is one of the best products we have been associated with-next to our own developed DVR technology. Readers of your article can go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... to view it or to DISH's website http://www.dishnetwork.com/goo... for more information!

  • Sulaiman Rasool

    Steve, I would firstly like to thank you for broadening the perception people may have about Google Tv, and how through legality and contracts the biggest online content players have got with other companies, will leave Google.. kind of out in the water, to start a Collaboration of Possibilities for online Content which streams easily through it's user Interface, without having to search it. Well I would really like to add my input into this 'new found Desire' the world has to have, Media - Data - Games - Apps and a Userfriendly Interface while sitting in the living room. Our Company has Created The Google Android TV Box which is Set up for 1080p HD TV's and works a Treat. Games, Full HD movies, Full Internet Browsing with Flash 10.1, Media libraries ( Music, Photo Gallery, Movies and Documents ). All on the wonderfull world of ANDROID ( 2.2 ). Please let me know what is the best way to contact you. Thank you

  • elias anderson

    I got my first glimpse of Google TV through work, and as an employee of DISH I use the Logitech Revue, and so far I really dig it. I wasn’t sure how it would work at first, and like you I'd heard a lot of negative reviews on everything from functionality to problems with installation...none of which I found to be true in my case. It does everything it promises to do, installation was a snap, and I've not come across any problems so far. I love Google TV, and think it is on the verge of revolutionizing TV the way the advent of DVR or TiVo did.

  • Miranda

    I use Google TV in my home and I have to say that its pretty neat. I agree that it is user friendly and is incredibly easy to move from screen to screen and the way that it actually does turn the flat screen into a computer is pretty neat. I love it! I first got to use it working at DISH, but since it actually came out... I very rarely actually use my laptop any more! Whats the point?
    --Miranda

  • Kathy Weigands

    I'm surprised you didn't mention that you can't watch anything Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC, Comedy Central and MTV because they have all blocked their programming from Google TV. I just use a service from TVDevo 'dot com' which is easy to use and is not blocked.
    Most people just want to watch TV. They want it to be simple, and it should "just work." Google TV turns the process into a hassle.

  • Steve

    @Kathy. Let me guess you are another apple nut here to trash a non-apple product you have never used?

    I have google tv and it is AWESOME. OH, you can also easily unblock those networks by changing the user agent on chrome to DESKTOP, an easy fix for now, I watched 4 episodes of house on my unit last night. I hope you realize that when the next update comes apps will make is incredibly easy to mask the device and even things like Hulu will work just as they do on any other computer. Let me guess you have a "apple tv", what the hell good is that hockey puck? You can watch your itunes library? whoopety doo, have fun with that, i'll be enjoying the full web of videos on my TV.

  • Gal Borenstein

    Steve: please enlighten us on how you change the user agent on chrome to desktop, so we can all enjoy it. is it from the google account on your pc or the actual google tv box? in other words, where is it in the settings? Much appreciated.

  • Steve

    Gal, Open up Google Chrome. Then hit the menu button on the logitech keyboard, choose "settings", then choose "advanced" then change the user agent to custom and write "Desktop".

  • Alkinoos

    Kathy, have you tried Google TV? My family, even my 8 year old, absolutely love it. As for the blocks, I don't imagine those will survive for very long, even if Google does nothing to "fool" the networks, once apps are available someone else will. Networks are just trying to desperately delay the inevitable.

  • Steven Rosenbaum

    Indeed - Google TV is blocked, while others like Boxee are not. I do agree that users of tv historically have wanted it to be simple. But the conundrum is that the volume of video content makes watching tv 'the old way' nearly impossible. Social TV - or something like it - could change that. But Google needs to embrace the idea of curated content, rather than universal 'search' or they're going to end up in the trash heap.

  • Steve

    Anohter Apple nut. Steve you know right well you can't watch network TV on a boxee, c'mon. Oh and see my comment above you can watch network TV on a google tv with a simple fix, takes 1 minute.