The Little TV that couldn’t: How Google TV had the potential to reform living room entertainment.
I Saw an ad yesterday for a deeply discounted Sony Google TV, over half off the MSRP. I think I can understand why they didn’t sell well, and hence the discount- Google once again jumped before they had any supporting content, and the TVs themselves were pretty expensive. Still, I was kind of sad to see it, because recently I had some quality time with one of these, and I really liked it.
First off, I have to say I LOVED the remote control. It was kind of an embodiment of the concept of the entire TV. It looked overwhelmingly complicated, but it only looked it. Every aspect of it was dead simple and intuitive. Most everything worked by pop-up contextual menus, and all I had to do was navigate and hit enter. The remote itself felt a little like holding a game controller but it was a delight to search for things on Netflix with a keyboard rather than a standard remote.
The GoogleTV concept of ‘search for any video on the internet and watch it’ was pretty much DOA, with Hulu and network TV sites blocking access, but some of the other concepts (don’t know if these were Sony TV specific or not) were rather nice. For instance, rather than the TV just starting where I left off the last time, it would present me with a list of recent stuff and a main menu when I’d turn it on. It was really nice- if I was last watching TV but now I want to watch a DVD, well, it’s right there in the menu, and getting back to TV was just as simple.
Another great concept of the Sony GoogleTV was that it effectively served as a living room entertainment hub, and all other devices were to connect to it and were controlled by it, similar to the way peripherals hook up to a computer. This may be a bad idea for non-geeks (I don’t know; i’m not one), but for me at least the whole concept was really refreshing and easy to use. For instance, the TV includes IR blasters so that the TV can control the cable box, DVD/ Blu-Ray player etc. Compare that to the current mess of 5 remotes it takes me to get a movie started, So I can’t imagine this tv-as-a-computer concept is any worse than the current landscape. (I know several people who don’t know how to get a movie started on their main TV because it’s simply become so complicated to navigate the half-dozen little boxes beside the TV). Here, DVD is just another option in the main menu, one button press away.
But I don’t want to bore with the gritty details. The point is that it would have been nice for the platform to see a little success, because although a lot of GoogleTV wasn’t ready for general consumer release, there were several good ideas encompassed within it, and its lack of success means we aren’t really getting any closer to an enlightened TV experience, currently available to anyone with an HTPC, but out of reach to those of us who don’t have the dough for one.