Google TV: Extended Test Drive Report


Since word dropped yesterday that Google is planning to create original video channels on YouTube for the living room lean back experience, it seemed a good time to reflect on Google TV itself. After all, I gather that Google is imagining this reported $100 millioninvestment in show material will be fodder for a YouTube app on Google TV

and elsewhere.

I can only offer my own highly subjective, individual and idiosyncratic experience with a few months of Google TV. I have the optimal experience installed - complete with Dish Network integration. The Google search box is in tune with the Dish grid. The only piece that never fell fully into place was the integration between Google TV and the Dish set top box's DVR. Programming future recordings takes an extra step or two than I believe was the intent. Otherwise, I have been playing with the Logitech Revue version of Google TV as the main interface for TV viewing.

Generally, Google TV is more of a navigational tool than a fully integrated part of my TV experience, and I am not sure that pouring TV-like content into YouTube is going to change that very much. The Web-based video programming continues to sit in its own silo on the interface home page, which I usually invoke as an afterthought or when I really am not finding anything interesting to watch on the main Dish grid. But on this sidecar platform I am driven mainly by specific content brands, like the well-executed CNET video compilation and CNN's less well-executed but news-oriented video portal. YouTube's TV-oriented "Lean-Back" mode oddly is among the worst performing elements on my Google TV. The video results are a mosh pit of items that require relentless drilling to find anything useful. Video quality is an issue on a larger screen, and the expectation of better quality video from various Web sources has ended up informing some of my choices.

The integration of Web video and TV is not even remotely occurring in my use of Google TV. Although we use the drop down search box routinely in our home, the quest is almost always as a shortcut to a specific on-air network or a specific show. We usually are counting on that selection floating to the top of what otherwise is a mess of results we routinely avoid clicking into. The one-line descriptors in the Google TV search results are too unclear for us to use topical keyword searches yet. As an organizing tool, Google TV has been helpful. From the "What's On" interface I can find the currently available live content across key categories like news, movies, etc.

So far the big brand winner from our Google TV interface has been Amazon. Being able to access both their video rental stream and new instant video streaming for Prime customers combines the best of Netflix with Apple TV and has reduced my use of both. The limitations of the Amazon streaming library notwithstanding (and having to navigate its standard Web interface on a TV) its combination of offerings has successfully nudged itself into my TV habits.

My own takeaway from this limited experience with a half-baked interface is that content, quality and compelling offers matter here. Having TV access to the "world of Web video" is not especially attractive here. Accessing in new ways familiar brands like CNET, PBS on demand, NYTimes, CNN or Amazon, etc., which complement the TV experience as I have known it is. For now, at least.  
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