Over the recent decade there have been many attempts to put the PC into the living room. It makes sense to unify the worlds of traditional entertainment and the flood of digital content coming from the internet. Unfortunately most of these attempts failed, especially here in Australia, and those that did succeed did it on a much smaller scale than promised.
Issues have involved everything from a lack of hardware grunt to an inability to unify content providers under a single banner. Microsoft never managed to turn Windows Media Centre edition into a viable product and Intel's Viiv never really managed to replicate the success of Centrino in the living room. Success has happened on limited scale with game consoles delivering video on demand services, but even they are recent phenomena, despite consoles being Internet-connected since Sega launched the Dreamcast in 1998.
Even the handful of successes like Tivo have been very regional. The PVR ecosystem has evolved around the massive number of cable channels in the US, while in Australia Foxtel is a walled garden of its own. The small number of free to air channels lack the ability to properly feed devices designed to collate from multiple broadcast streams.
Google TV is a new take on computing in the living room. It is essentially an Android-based platform designed to run on dedicated hardware. At launch in the US this will take the form of a TV and Blu-ray player from Sony and a set-top device from Logitech. These Google TV devices then not only access traditional TV stations but also tap into Internet video content as well.
This is a very different philosophy from a lot of products over the past decade. These were designed to tap into a digital media collection inside the home, and hence were only as good as the data stored on one's devices. The Google TV approach is not only web-focused, but also advertising based, which is something that these other devices are not.
|The Google TV interface is designed for use on a Television, and is designed as a simplified way to access a range of video content.
During a presentation today at the Sydney event tying in with last week's Google I/O conference in the US, Google TV product manager Rishi Chandra gave us some insight into this. By leveraging an on-demand video model it not only avoids the problem of skippable advertising but it also allows for the kind of tracking and customization of ads that we see with Google's web based advertising models.
The subtle difference between software and service
Think about it and you will realize that this not only means developers and content producers can get paid for content appearing on television screens, it means that Google can happily open up the software platform. This means that unlike Microsoft's Media Centre edition (for example), the money isn't to be made with software sales, but rather by delivering an experience that is good enough for people to keep watching and the advertising money to keep rolling in.
Because it is an open platform it also means that many more hardware manufacturers can be expected to jump on the Google TV bandwagon. There was an indication by Google that this was happening, but no more players have been announced at this point.
The other important thing to keep in mind is that, while not touched on by Google at today's event, Intel is behind Google TV. With Intel seeing the platform as a great way to sell more processors we can expect that this will also drive interest in Google TV from the hardware side. Of course, Intel tried with Viiv to kick Microsoft's media centre edition along, and the initiative wasn't exactly a success. But the nature of Google TV makes this a much more compelling proposition than the somewhat narrow nature of Windows MCE.
When do we get it?
This all begs the question of just when we will see this technology in Australia. We know from past experience with Windows MCE that our free to air television networks tend to not play nicely with these sorts of initiatives. Just how they will cope with a device that lets users access a whole other world of Internet based content will be interesting to see, especially when Google's advertising based model will be literally taking money out of the free to air station's pockets.
For now, Google's plans are to roll out the initial Google TV products in the US later this year. It is looking at bringing the technology to the rest of the world from 2011. However this will be a limited roll out and there is currently no notion of whether or not Australia will be included.