Your TV Tech Fix: Google TV To Invade Your Living Room. Should You Care?

A little less than a week ago, Google, the company known for shaking things up did just that by unveiling their new service called Google TV. Their goal: “combine the TV you know and love with the freedom and power of the Internet.”

Now I’ve been asked several times what my thoughts are when it comes to Google invading the living room TV, because no one is really sure whether or not the search giant can succeed where so many others haven’t. The web and the TV united is like the holy grail – whoever manages to pull it off will rule the world. For those not really in tune with the tech world, here’s a few TV related analogies to give you an idea of how ‘big’ it would be:

  1. It would be like Conan was back on the TONIGHT SHOW.
  2. It would be like FIREFLY got un-canceled.
  3. It would be like NBC came up with a reality show that didn’t suck.
  4. It would be like the Griffin and Simpson families brawled it out in a cage match. I’ll put my money on Meg… she’s got to have so much pent up rage.
  5. It would be like DEXTER, WEEDS, and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER morphed into some kind of super show where Nancy Botwin and lover-boy Ted Mosely sell pot to finance Barney and Dexter’s new justice league of legendary serial killers. I know… just think about that…

What is Google TV exactly? Simply put, it’s a new software platform from Google derived from their Android OS and Chrome web browser that can be integrated into set top boxes and televisions. With it, you’ll (supposedly) be able to call up a search box to find videos and shows, then be able to stream them from the web and play them right on your TV screen (something I haven’t seen a compelling demo of as of yet). You’ll also be able to use the Chrome browser to view web pages like on your PC screen, Flash support included.

In all honesty, Google’s got a tough road ahead of them. Much of the web has focused on talk of IR blasters and external set tops, and while it can be a turn off to some, that’s not what’s going to make or break Google TV. Google’s problem is content, navigation, and advertising – plain and simple.

First, the content. They’ve got YouTube, no doubt, but YouTube isn’t exactly a haven for premiere television content that people want to watch, and if the sources of that content like Hulu and other network sites shrug their shoulders and walk away, all Google will have managed to do is put a web browser on a TV. Content owners seem awfully protective when it comes to making their content web accessible on mobile and TV devices. After all, making the current TV model totally obsolete doesn’t exactly play to their interests.

Second, the navigation and discovery of content needs to be rock solid. They need to make sure that the results that populate that search screen are relevant the viewer. If I type in a show name and get back a cast list page, a few trailer clips, a fan page and four other listings that aren’t video, this thing is doomed.

Finally, it’s already been discussed that advertising will be mandatory, meaning no skipping commercials like DVRs. That actually may be a good thing, as it may solve the first problem if it can generate revenue and pay content owners. However, there are some serious flaws with the way ads are inserted in current online videos that needs to be solved. For starters, Google’s YouTube overlay ads are annoying, and if that’s the route they go, it will be too distracting for big screen viewing. Hulu’s model works okay for the big screen since it’s just an inserted commercial, but there better be enough variety in Google’s “super targeted” world to ensure I don’t have to watch the same advert over and over again for a week straight.

Consuming video on a big screen implies a certain experience, and I’m not convinced the masses are ready for anything different.

Satisfy your inner geek while fueling your TV addiction… TV Tech Fix is a column by Matt Whitlock, editor of the Consumer Electronics Community (plus several other gadget-focused community websites), and lover of both technology and TV. In this column, he’ll cover a wide variety of tech topics aimed squarely at the TV addicts of the world – from tips and tricks to help you better your TV experience, to gear recommendations, to the impact technology is having on the TV shows we love.

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