Consumer Reports: What’s going on with Google TV?

June 27, 2011

Thanks to Wave I'm gunshy about recommending unpopular Google products, but I'll say it: I really like Google TV. True, it's not the king of usability, but once you get it set up, having a full-on tabbed browser with Flash support on your TV is awesome. It means you get to watch almost every kind of obscure Flash-based video clip and stream (with notable exceptions, of course). I bookmark web videos in my "to watch" Instapaper folder and Stellar collects videos my friends have favorited during the day, and I watch them on my TV in-browser at night. We also use it to Google/IMDB/Twitter search for actors, writers, and shows we're watching constantly. It's fun to watch Twitter search results fly by during live events like American Idol or a UFC fight; many TV shows have some sort of hashtag watermark on them these days, so if you're watching live, that works too. Google TV desperately needs the Android Market on it and a ton more apps. But despite the need for a keyboard in your living room, a browser on your TV is an underrated concept.

I’m hopeful for the future of Google TV, but I’m also afraid Google may kill it off too soon. They certainly have shown a willingness to kill off early-stage projects (Wave, Google Health, and PowerMeter). I want Google TV to succeed because I see the great promise it offers to consumers and developers once it is fully implemented. But if they want the platform to even have a shot, they need to make it as small and as cheap as the AppleTV. There is no way of getting around this. Perhaps building it into TVs (as they have suggested) is an option as well.

My hacked AppleTV can still stream Netflix and run XBMC very well. I’m not a fan of Apple’s business model, but the device itself is solid. It doesn’t integrate traditional cable services, but I feel that the early adopters who may be excited about Google TV are less likely to have/use cable anyway. I’ve been online-only for years now, and wouldn’t go back at any price.

Google also has to work out deals with the content providers to get access to online streams. I place the blame for the current lack of functionality squarely on the content provider’s unfair device discrimination. But it really doesn’t matter who’s fault it is – the platform will continue to suffer until a deal is made. Perhaps Google could get around this by using a Chrome browser that uses exactly the same version of Flash that a computer would, so that it would be indistinguishable on the server’s end.

The best thing Google TV has going for it is that if fits into the larger Android ecosystem. I would like to stream from my phone or tablet to my TV, and a Google-designed box would be an ideal solution for this. Cross-platform apps also offer a world of new functionality and development that would greatly benefit consumers. Since the Google TV session at Google I/O was one of the fullest rooms in attendance (they even had to cut the line off with many people still outside), I’ll assume this platform will continue to have Google’s support. The move to Honeycomb will be a great start.

Keith [+5]
Jun 27 11 at 9:12 am

Gina,

Have you had luck using the Google TV Remote app from an Android phone, paired with your TV?

I’ve had 0 success in getting the pairing code to show up on the TV to then enter in my phone, and my Google-fu has failed me in trying to find anything remotely helpful on the internets.

All in all though, I’d agree with your assessment here of it – I feel like I’ve only been using the tip of the iceberg of what’s available to me on it, but what I have seen/used, I do actually enjoy.

mrhaydel [+7]
Jun 27 11 at 9:57 am

I did get the Google TV Remote app working on the Tab and on my Nexus S. It has resulted in many a remote war in my living room. :)

Gina Trapani [+195]
Jun 27 11 at 10:07 am

Getting this thing down to the price of a high end Roku coupled with the App store, (and of course apps that compete with Roku) and I see no reason why this shouldn’t succeed.

Brice Gilbert [+4]
Jun 27 11 at 10:09 am

The concept of Google TV is pretty amazing. One set-top box to rule them all, seemlessly integrating the old-fashioned TV that you know and love, with everything that the web has to offer… This is the dream nerds have been dreaming for a decade now.

Google blew it… HARD. They didn’t have any content deals, so all the networks blocked them. There was no CableCard, and no DVR functionality, so you couldn’t even watch regular TV with it. You could basically watch YouTube, with a difficult to use, laggy interface. Fantastic.

It’s a product that we all want, but Google’s execution has been SO bad that it will probably take years for them to shake off the stink of Google TV’s failure.

By the time Google actually figures out how to make Google TV work, I’m pretty sure that Microsoft will already have eaten their lunch. For TV viewing, Media Center is already the best thing out there, and they’re bringing YouTube and Bing to Xbox 360. It’s going to be tough to beat Microsoft at this game.

Mike Cerm [+21]
Jun 27 11 at 10:20 am

Really dumb question (yes, there are such things):

Is it possible to obtain Google TV software and run it on an HTPC?

With a PC, it’s probably a waste of time to add GTV to everything else that I’ve got running. I do not agree that Media Center is terribly useful, at least not with my setup. I’ve tried lots of stuff, and I always comes back to just a DIRECTV box and NAS DLNA straight to my AV receiver for TV and music, plus AnyDVD HD, and Total Media Theater to play DVD and BD folders.

rrrrrichard [+3]
Jun 27 11 at 6:06 pm

Every SageTV user out there is wondering what the recent acquisition of that product by Google means. We’re especially nervous that Google might kill GoogleTV (if that’s where Sage is going) before we get something useable. However, I’m hopeful that we’ll get a very improved GoogleTV with built-in DVR capabilities.

rsteele
Jun 28 11 at 3:57 am

It’s not that hard, or that expensive, to buy a small refurbished PC (I’m using a Lenovo M57 myself) and connect it to your TV. I don’t get the attraction of installing a limited function piece of hardware like a Google TV or a Roku box, when a simple PC with a wireless keyboard (like Lenovo’s N5901) or remote (like the D-Link Boxee remote) can do everything they can do, and more.

THOMAS BETZ
Jul 28 11 at 9:46 am

I sided with the Boxee Box, and I like it for watching TWiT and when I occasionally download other kinds of shows. However I am an Android fan and it was a tough decision.

BTW… has there been any recent hints if the Revue will be compatible with the updated OS with Market? If so, where can I buy it for $99? So far Logitech’s website still shows $249.

Brian Hanifin [+5]
Jul 28 11 at 10:23 pm


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