With Google TV, Google hoped to make a push into its users’ living rooms. Its launch in October 2010, though, was marred by an overcomplicated interface and a lack of content, as the TV networks and companies like Hulu quickly barred Google TV users from accessing their sites. Now, just about a year later, Google is giving it another try. The hardware – the Logitech Revue and a few Sony TVs – remains the same, but the software got a major update. A new, simpler interface should make using the service easier and the improved search should make finding content a snap. The new Google TV experience, running on top of Android 3.1, also includes an updated YouTube channel and – maybe most importantly – a selection of apps from the Android market.
What remains the same for now, however, is the hardware selection: there’s the $99 Logitech Revue with its unwieldy keyboard remote and a small number of Sony TVs with Google TV built-in (with a remote that’s just as complicated).
Will Google TV Sell This Time Around?
Early reviews of the first generation of Google TV were generally negative (especially after all the major media companies blocked access to their sites) and it never gained any traction in the market. Users who wanted to watch Netflix or Hulu on their TVs mostly opted to buy more straightforward and cheaper devices from manufacturers like Roku or used their Xbox or Playstation to watch Hulu and Netflix. Hulu, by the way, remains absent from the Google TV lineup.
Among the new apps are offerings from AOL, Pandora, CNBC, CNN Money, the Wall Street Journal and others. Individually, none of these will likely drive buyers to Google TV, but having a large ecosystem of video services available may make the hardware an easier sell.
Still Not for Cord Cutters
The area where Google TV beats its competitors is the integration with regular live TV. Indeed, Google itself points out that it thinks this era of TV is “not about replacing broadcast or cable TV; it’s not about replicating what’s on TV to the Web. It’s about bringing millions of new channels to your TV from the next generation of creators, application developers, and networks.” Google clearly doesn’t want its TV initiative to be seen as competition for the current players. Instead, it wants Google TV to be complimentary to the network and cable programming that most people still subscribe to today.