Google TV: Unrealized Potential

Recently, Google sent me a Logitech Revue Google TV as part of developer program. I want to explore Google TV’s  potential for education and possibly develop an app for it. The Logitech Revue is one of a handful of devices that run Google TV, an operating system related to Android and developed by Google. It is a small box that is supposed to connect between your TV and your cable box. The only other devices currently running Google TV are a Sony TV with it built-in and a Sony set-top box.

Hardware

The review is about the potential of the operating system, Google TV, so I will keep the hardware section short. The hardware seems sturdy and well-made. The footprint of the set-top box is small and unobtrusive. The device is controlled by a keyboard with a built-in trackpad. It is not the most natural thing to sit on the couch HDMI out to my TV was no problem but the box I have from Comcast does not have HDMI out so I was not able to fully utilize the potential of the device.

Google TV

The idea behind Google is brilliant. Make TV interactive and fun. For example, you can search for a movie and then find places to watch it online or read about it. A stripped-down version of Google Chrome is included and can play Flash content; the issue is that most online video providers (namely Hulu and the big networks) have blocked Google TV from playing there content. They are terrified that if people can watch online then they will cancel their cable subscriptions. Instead of doing anything innovative themselves, they cower under a rock and hope to keep subscribers locked in. Places that  allow watching online content, like YouTube and TNT, work well.

There are a few apps built-in. The ones that will be of most interest are Pandora, Netflix, an Amazon Video on Demand. Amazon and Netflix both work fine and it is convenient. Pandora, which I love and use daily, is awful on Google TV. It stutters every few minutes and stops playing for several minutes. It is not a connection issue as it is directly next to the wifi router and Netflix movies stream without issue.

A nice feature is also being able to control the Google from an Android phone, although both the Google and Logitech apps had issues.

Delayed Judgement

This is an early release and, in my opinion, not yet ready for primetime. Google knows this (possibly too late) and is expected to make a major update in the first half of next year that will overhaul much of the operating system and include access to the Android Market.  That will make this a much more attractive device.

Potential in Education

At first, I was having difficulty seeing an educational application. One area where it could prove quite useful, though, is in group study and home school environments. It is much easier for several people to interact, discuss, and be comfortable sitting 10 feet away from a screen than crowding around a laptop. The usefulness in education will largely depend on the types of apps that developers create. At the moment, other than gathering to watch educational videos, it is too limited to recommend for the market.

Conclusions

The Logitech Revue sells for $300 and the Sony Internet TV sells for $400. I would not pay more than $100 in its current state (by comparison, the Apple TV sells for $99). I am looking greatly forward to the next release and expect major changes and improvement. This very much feels like a beta device. Unless you are a die-hard early adopter, I would wait until the next release. There are simply too many compromises at this point.

  • Sarah

    With working at DISH, I found that the Google T.V is very useful. Having the ability to sit around and not have to move to another room to use a computer is amazing. The Google TV is great source for energy saving as well. Not having another electric device in the home is more spacious and you have the ability to see what your kids are viewing.

  • http://discusstech.org/ Techie Salsan

    The whole lansdscape is changing, it’s going to be really interesting to see how TV evolves over the next few years. The possiblities are endless… and I can see a more interactive user experience. Thanks for the post.
    Techie Salsan´s last blog post ..What is google television