Is Google TV A Newer, Smarter Convergence or Has Collision Returned?

In the next few issues we’re going to be diving headfirst into the emerging Google TV ecosystem in the form of Logitech’s Revue and a Sony Google TV-equipped BD player. It occurred to me in planning this coverage that I’ve seen some of this before. Just a few years ago this merging of the computer world with consumer electronics was called convergence by its proponents, and collision by its many detractors. Its first clumsy steps were really little more than dragging a full blown PC into your theater system and using your TV as a really big computer monitor with a wireless keyboard and/or mouse. Instead of enhancing functionality, it combined the worst aspects of both worlds. People using computers all day for business had no interest in taking all the issues with computer interfaces and mucking up their leisure time with it. In response to its failure to catch on in the home theater world, computer monitors got bigger, desktop audio systems got better, and the home theater and computer/Internet worlds each went to their respective rooms.

In the last few years widget apps brought smart convergence to the market in the form of streaming apps, and people seem to responding favorably. Rather than full blown computer interfaces, there are simple button icons that connect to content, keeping the computer backbone invisible. People no longer need to think of how to get the content they want, they just more or less point and click. It’s simple, clean and accessible.

The Google TV systems are shipping with keyboards and seemingly go beyond apps in delivering the Internet experience to your home theater system. My question for the week is, do you want a more robust computer/Internet experience in your home theater? Or are a few smart apps that simply and invisibly pull the content you want from the ‘Net the way to go?

Steve Smith's picture

I am personally debating if this is a smart move or not Shane. First it was push Blu, then 3D and now this? I think its too many eggs in one basket if you ask me. But if I wanna go in this route with Google its nice to know that I wont have to buy a new HDTV to make it happen unlike 3D where I have to buy a whole new tv to see 3D! Will this new toy succeed of fail? Time will tell.

Shane's picture

Steve- thanks for posting. But I'm more interested to know if the concept is something you're interested in. This is one of those things that's hard for me to handicap for Home Theater's audience. Is this something you've been waiting and looking for? Or is our audience here most interested in things that enhance the qualitative experience? In other words, core home theater components that improve picture and sound, and the rest is just gadgets. Is there room in your theater for both kinds of components?

Niels's picture

Shane,I have a few thoughts on the subject. I've been an HT subscriber for many years, and probably the biggest reason I continue to read HT as it changes over the years is to learn about new equipment. In fact, I would argue most home theater enthusiasts are 'gear-heads' to some degree; the experience you can create at home is in direct proportion to the quality of your equipment. But I'm also addicted to new technology in general, so there's definitely room in my theater for both kinds of components. Much as I love my PS3, it doesn't quite get me the 'convergence' I want. We'll spontaneously try to log in to Facebook for example, and find the process with my PS3 rather cumbersome. I also see Google TV filling that gap that my homemade MythTV linux box didn't quite accomplish back in '05. Gadgets aren't just glitter; I will always want cool stuff to augment the experience my core components provide. Put me down as a 'yes', there is room in my

Jarod's picture

I am a purist when it comes to my home theater. I want to keep my home theater a home theater and my computer room my computer room. I have no interest to converge the two. I have looked at youtube when I first got my PS3 but that novelty wore off fast. I think that many HDTV companies are getting distracted from advancing 2D picture technology by their devotion to adding more and more apps to there sets. This is just me.

Matt's picture

Shane, I have a lot to say about this. I'm still not getting the point of Google TV. The manufacturers aren't getting it. Google TV literally needs to access all the different websites that enable you to watch the shows that are on television that you missed at the time of broadcast. Beyond that, I don't care. The whole watching YouTube vids on your tele is just a novelty that I tried one time on my AppleTV. Furthermore, having iTunes force you to pay for shows' episodes that you can just stream from the respective website for free is not going to be successful. Apple missed the boat on their 1st gen. AppleTV in how they marketed it. I use it for an exact copy of all my music from my computer upstairs to my non-wirelessly enabled home theater downstairs. Voila, access to my entire catalog on my home theater with no need of a computer at all. Just my trusty iPhone using the Remote App and I'm set. The new AppleTV has no harddrive, and so I have no use for it.

Bearcat Sandor's picture

Personally, while it may catch on for some, i think those of us who are interested are already doing it.I was a proponent of "convergence" 10 years ago when i ripped all of my movies and audio to a hard drive and found that i loved having it all at my finger tips.Set up MythTV and you can record programs, skip commercials, access the schedules from any computer in the world and watch the recorded programs from afar. Instead of a remote control keyboard with tiny buttons i have a full sized wireless keyboard that i can use all day.Oh, and it's also a computer. All of this software is thanks to a good Linux distrobution like Gentoo for the experienced and Ubuntu (or Mythbuntu) for beginners.

Shane's picture

Bearcat, I'm not sure I grok all your words, but I think I smell what you're cooking.

SoundDoc's picture

I am waiting to see what Google TV can bring to me. I am basically tired of network TV, I can watch most episodes of shows I like on my schedule, not by recording them, but by streaming them at my convenience and that's what I hope Google TV will enhance along with large screen access to the web sa we know it now and later to the semantic web. Google TV may also be the device that makes video calls from home ubiquitous since all it needs is a camera on eh set top, some of which many wll have anyway courtesy yaooioo games from Sony, MicroSoft, and Nintedo.

Shane's picture

SoundDoc, that's a fascinating point. Now, my understanding is that the networks are shutting Google out. But what you're saying is something that has the potential to change the TV model. I'm with you- I only watch sporting events live, everything else is DVR'd and watched on my time. Maybe the AppleTV is the answer. Does the 99 cents per episode model appeal? Or does it need to be free?

Santiago Matamoros's picture

My home theater:-57" 1080p HDTV-22" touchscreen monitor next to it as an interface for PC and backup for when the television's being used for . . . television-HD audio receiver-massive, beautiful 5.1 surround sound speakers-PC that plays everything current well-a Logitech diNovo Edge-PS3Anything I want to do, I can do, from anywhere in the room, in high definition and 5.1.Hardly "clumsy."

SouthRider's picture

YES YES YES, I want the whole internet on my TV, but give me an easy to use interface, and integrate it with my dvr and the content on my computer.Yes I want to be able to see any shows I've missed easily. Yes I want more info on who is in a show or movie.Yes I may want more info on a service or product in a show.Yes I want to rip movies & music I already own and pull them up easily on my home theatre.Yes I want to subscribe to movies & shows online & see them in full HD with 5.1 (or better) sound on demand.No I don't want apps, widgets, or only the services that the tv maker, satellite provider, cable co, or box creator want me to have.

Chris's picture

Is Google TV about bringing the internet to your TV? Or is it about turning the internet into a TV? I want the latter. I've finally gotten rid of my cable for good; I have more time and I really don't miss it. Still, if Google TV could bring me watchable, content, available "out there" free on the internet, without me having to enter URL's, I would be interested. I want _interesting_, timely content, presented in a watchable "TV-like" device. I don't even care about most of the "shows" on cable; how about something smarter than the stuff on cable..?

jack's picture

Think what it will do for porn.