Google TV is a new platform that aims to bring the Web to TVs. Google developed a custom Android version that runs Google Chrome and improves the TV viewing experience by allowing you to find TV programs, showing recommendations and integrating content from the Web.
"With Google Chrome built in, you can access all of your favorite websites and easily move between television and the web. This opens up your TV from a few hundred channels to millions of channels of entertainment across TV and the web. Your television is also no longer confined to showing just video. With the entire Internet in your living room, your TV becomes more than a TV — it can be a photo slideshow viewer, a gaming console, a music player and much more," explains Google.
Google's demo from the Google I/O conference wasn't very convincing. Google acknowledged that many other companies tried to create similar products without too much success. The explanation is probably that they were ahead of their time, but Google says that they were unsuccessful because they dumbed down the Web experience, they were closed and users had to choose between watching TV and browsing the Web.
"The project started 2½ years ago, with a vision of a walled garden of TV-optimized web services. But the landscape keeps shifting, particularly in the capabilities of mobile devices. The only solution big enough for the problem is to bring the whole web to your TV," says Vincent Dureau, who is in charge of Google TV.
Google partnered with Sony, Intel and Logitech to add Google TV to "televisions, Blu-ray players and companion boxes". The first Internet-enabled TV that runs Google's software will be launched this fall by Sony and it promises to provide "richer internet access so you can browse the web just like you would from a computer."
But why not connect your TV to a computer? Android is a great operating system for a mobile phone, but it doesn't look very well on a big HDTV. Not all the Android applications are useful on a TV and those that are useful won't take advantage on the huge screen estate of the TV. Google promises to introduce a Google TV SDK and some APIs for web applications, but that will happen next year.
Google TV has a lot of potential and I'm sure it could eventually become a great product. The software could make TV programs more interactive by detecting phone numbers, addresses or URLs, it could allow you to chat with a friend while watching the same TV show, it could create chat rooms for everyone who watches the same show, it could use visual search to show information about an object from the screen or it could translate a foreign-language movie.
If you already have an Android phone, you can use it as a remote control. Since the TV and the phone can run the same applications, you'll be able to sign in using the same Google Account and synchronize your data. Favorite an YouTube video on a phone, watch it later on your TV and use it to generate a list of recommended TV shows.
Can we switch to the other box?