Google TV

I've previously been of the opinion that TV viewers would never settle for watching TV programming on computers because it required a lean-forward experience. Watching from your easy chair, on the other hand, is a lean-back experience. There is a significant difference both in the comfort and ease of use factors; I now may have to change my opinion.

At its May I/O conference, Google revealed its highly anticipated Google TV product. Google TV is a combination of software and hardware that merges the Internet and TV. Google's solution combines its new Android 2.2 software, called Froyro, with a Sony TV.

Trying to read e-mail or surf the Internet on a TV has previously proven to be neither easy nor satisfying. Balancing a keyboard and mouse from an easy chair is difficult, at best, and Internet sites often display improperly on a TV screen; however, Google's new approach promises to be an easy experience.

Google has taken its search expertise and added user-friendly control in a lean-back environment. With Google TV, an Android phone can be used to enable voice control. Simply say, “‘Simpsons’ TV show,” and your Google TV would display the options for such tagged content. How about e-mail? Forget that now-ancient AOL phrase, “You've got mail.” With Google TV, you'll be able read e-mail just by saying, “Open my e-mail.”

Because the platform is Android-based, thousands of developers may bring new features, control and applications to the TV set. Google claims that 100,000 Android devices are activated every day, and the platform is supported by 50,000 Android applications. Imagine what TV sets might be able to do when armed with third-party apps?

One might ask why Google wants to enter the TV market. It's not because the company wants to sell applications; it's because there are 4 billion TV sets around the world, and $70 billion is spent annually on TV advertising in the United States alone. Google wants a piece of this revenue.

Advertisers also could benefit from this new TV functionality. While today's advertising messages are passive, Google TV will enable a two-way dialog. When the viewer sees an interesting product on a TV program, he will be able to quickly access more information about it, find a local dealer and even contact the vendor. Combined with home and viewer demographics, Google TV could become Madison Avenue's next hurrah.

Why should broadcasters even care about Google TV?

Any technology that further enhances the viewer experience is good for broadcasters. Yes, the technology means a variety of competition will be displayed along with your station on any EPG or listing. But with context search capability, station content will be equally visible with other choices. This means local programming will stand out even more, unlike now when your station or network is just one of 500 other channels.

Today's viewers don't know or care whether the programs come from satellite, cable, over the air, Internet or by water pipe. What viewers want is to be able to easily find the desired content and then view it in a comfortable environment. Does Google TV effectively provide all these functions and features? Perhaps not yet, but it does appear Google is closer to an effective solution than anyone else.

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