Gadgets
Google TV: Revolution Paused
Google’s maligned integration of web and TV hits a snag.
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December 20, 2010 by Grant Clauser

Google’s attempt to redefine the television experience by creating an integrated interface where web content and traditional broadcast TV content can be accessed through the same device appears to be stumbling. An article in the New York Times states that the browser giant has asked key manufacturing partners to delay their introductions of their Google TV products.

Currently Google TV is available on a couple of Sony devices (a Blu-ray player and an LCD TV) as well as the Logitech Revue. At next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, several TV makers, including LG, Toshiba, Samsung and Vizio were expected to show off similar products sporting the Google TV platform. The NYT article states that Google asked those companies the hold off, presumably until Google can work out kinks in the system to make it more palatable to consumers.

I’ve been using Google TV for a couple of weeks, and so far find it innovative and useful, but overpriced ($299 for the Logitech Revue) and occasionally clunky, prone to stalls or lock ups and marred by the all-out boycott by major TV networks.

Last week Google rolled out an update to the Netflix interface on Google TV. I used it over the weekend, and appreciated the improvements in navigation. Perhaps more updates like that would make the system more attractive to consumers. However, the bigger problem is that it misses out on the grand promise—complete access to web-based content. While all the major broadcasters make their TV shows available on their own web sites (as well as on Hulu or Hulu Plus), they’ve turned their noses up at Google TV and blocked their programs from being displayed on that platform.

I admit I think that position by broadcasters is kind of baffling. Without even considering every web-connected computer in the world, there are already several TV devices that allow those same programs to be viewed through Hulu on TVs via an internet connection—Sony’s PS3 is the biggest of them, as well as Roku boxes, iPhone, Xbox 360 and TVs from Samsung, Sony and Vizio.  Hulu’s own web site shows that TVs from Panasonic and LG as well as TiVo and Western Digital’s WD TV Live will also soon be on board.

So why does Hulu hate Google?  The same ads that appear on the web-broadcast programs would appear through Google TV. Compatibility would, if the platform took off, greatly expand the programs’ viewership.

As a fan of any interesting innovation, and Google TV is very interesting and very innovative, I’m greatly disappointed by this news. To be sure, I’ll be paying extra attention at CES next month and will report any updates.

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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