Google TV Scheduled For A Summer Reboot

Dave Zatz —  May 13, 2011

google-tv-home-screen

I’d like to suggest an update to this Google TV FAQ, as the schedule has clearly been blown (and by any or most objective measures, Google’s initial foray into television services has been a failure).

Expect many more applications after we open the Android Market on Google TV in early 2011.

“Early 2011” has obviously come and gone while Google TV has remained largely stagnent. Yeah, it provides a few nifty tricks, like that video overlay, and there’s tons of potential. But the interface remains a mess and a large percent of the web video we want to get at is blocked (by the providers). And then there’s all the apps. Rather, the lack of.

That’s the bad news. The good news, unveiled at Google’s developer conference this week, is what looks to be a significant reboot of the Goole TV platform this summer. Based on Android 3.1 (Honeycomb), and as reported by NewTeeVee, the new experience more efficiently directs folks to the features they’re seeking… including a full blown application Market. As you can tell from the screengrabs, the refreshed UI appears at once both more sophisticated and more streamlined. I only hope early adopters of original Sony and Logitech Google TV hardware and rewarded for their gamble with an update.

The Android Market will make Google TV a far more compelling platform. And far more competitive. As Android may provide a whole lot more programming power and flexibility than Roku’s API and simplistic presentation. Not to mention, there’s a number of suitable existing mobile apps that could be retrofitted for a lean back interface. Meanwhile, Apple TV doesn’t (yet) offer an open App Store – instead continuing to broker deals with select partners. So there’s still an opportunity for Google to make a mark in this space.

19 responses to Google TV Scheduled For A Summer Reboot

  1. I’m pretty sure I read that existing Google TV products will get this update.

    Note that Google also released the source for the Google TV remote control app for Android, inviting anyone to make a better remote app.

    Google is pretty good at learning from their mistakes and listening to feedback. They know they missed the mark with the first pass and I think the delay has been due to wanting to make a big splash with a relaunch of a much improved product instead of just slapping bandaids on it.

    If they ever add DVR to this, TiVo will need to watch their back.

  2. I am really interested in seeing what they do here. I believe the hardware (Logitech Revue) is well done, the problem with the GoogleTV platform has always been the software.

    The GoogleTV platform has the ability to be a realy good box, but with the current software I wouldn’t give one to my worst enemy.

    This is one I will watch closely, because done correctly I believe this can be an amazing box.

  3. I was at the android apps for google tv session, they did say that all the existing google tv devices would get the honeycomb update.

  4. Awesome, David – thanks for the confirmation.

    DVR capabilities would make it interesting. Although I expect Boxee to come out with a tuner-based solution like that first.

  5. Yeah it would take DVR functionality for me to be interested in another box at my TV.

  6. How would they add DVR functionality? It’s a passthru, there’s no tuner.

    I bought the Sony when it was on sale for the same price as the Logitech. Part of my reason was to have a simpler BluRay player than the PS3. Part for on TV web browsing. Partly for what was promised for the future.. While I’m not blown away and don’t use it every day, it still has potential.

    Another use I’ve thought about but not gone anywhere with is setting up some type of HDMI distribution and using it to be able to watch/control my main Tivo anywhere.

  7. Adding a tuner would be new HW, not he existing units. We’re talking about adding DVR functionality to the platform in general, to allow it to be used to create DVRs – which would of course mean new HW.

  8. The Sony televisions with integrated Google TV already have tuners and the boxes like Revue have USB ports. But, like MZ said, it’d most likely be new hardware.

  9. Ahh, that makes sense..

    Do you really think they’d create a new DVR when it’s built to control the DVR you have? I guess they could have different models..

  10. Does anyone else think that Google should buy Boxee to give a jumpstart to their TV efforts? Boxee has a much better & simpler interface (on Boxee Box), similar concept of apps to extend core functionality, and integration with Netflix & VUDU (and, at some point in a future, Hulu Plus).

  11. It needs to be integrated with your existing DVR, either inside the same box or by adding the kind of hooks that Dish did. If they can’t do that, then they won’t be able to search my recordings, or the VOD content available via my DVR, or any of that. And the thing will continue to be problematic, e.g. two interfaces when most people have enough trouble with one.

    They need to get in bed with Motorola and SA and Tivo and Direct TV. Given how much the MSOs presumably hate them, I assume the first two are unlikely, but the other two are potentially possible.

    That plus either getting the networks to unblock things OR providing apps that do the same thing (e.g. Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Xfinity TV as apps).

    Without those changes it’ll still be a niche product.

    That said, I remain excited by the potential for an app store on the TV. Whether any of these guys will actually crack this market and it’ll turn out to be a good idea, I don’t really know. But I hope so. I don’t think most Android apps are going to work on a lean back interface, but some could be really useful. The question is which ones.

  12. “It needs to be integrated with your existing DVR, either inside the same box or by adding the kind of hooks that Dish did. If they can’t do that, then they won’t be able to search my recordings, or the VOD content available via my DVR, or any of that. And the thing will continue to be problematic, e.g. two interfaces when most people have enough trouble with one.”

    As Gartenberg correctly said when the Google TV was introduced:

    Google wants input 1. They’ll never get it. Apple wants input 2. They might get it.

  13. This is typical Google… They release a bad product and expect paying customers to test it. By all accounts, this is an alpha quality product as it stands now, not even beta. I guess it’s cheaper to sell it and let Logitech get burned, than to do the product management work of beta testing, getting customer feedback, and revising the product before selling it. Ah yes, Google doing no evil.

    I looked into getting a Google TV, but regardless of the price, the thing works poorly. It may be OK if you want to use it as a DVR (your cable company probably offers a better system for that), but systems like Apple TV and Roku are geared towards ditching cable altogether. When you save $100+ on your cable bill, then renting an on demand movie or getting a Netflix and Hulu account is not an issue. Apple TV saves me $1000 a year. TV is mostly crap anyway — reality shows and food shows. Anything good is available on demand…

    I went for Apple TV. They consider it a hobby, but it is very well done. If you have an iTunes library and iOS devices, Apple TV is a no brainer. It will play music and movies out of any iTunes library. You can control it with your iOS devices or Mac, if you need a keyboard. I did it at first, but the UI is so well done, you won’t need to type in more than a few words of a movie title, so the basic remote works great. Despite what PC World claims about the iOS-like Netflix app, it works much better than Netflix on Google TV. You cannot search Netflix on Google TV. You have to open the browser, add items to your queue, and go back to the Netflix app. With Apple TV, Netflix is searchable via the app, as well as getting recommendations, browsing by genre, etc. I like it better than the Netflix web site. If PC World claims it works like an iOS app, they’re wrong. It is not touch based. It works much more like Front Row on a Mac, but with all of the Netflix functionality exposed through an easy to use menu.

    iTunes is the killer app here. They have the best selection of tv show and movies. That said, I pretty much have stuck with Netflix. Netflix Instant is so good now, they have added so much content. I am not too upset about the price hikes… Netflix is 80% of my Apple TV experience.

    The nice thing is that I can play anything on my Apple TV, thanks to AirPlay. So if I am watching PBS or Hulu+ on my iPad, I just click the AirPlay button, and it’s on my TV. Of course, any DVD you own or any video you download (ahem, adult entertainment) and add to your iTunes library can be played via AirPlay or home sharing on Apple TV. It is an ecosystem. You don’t need to own Apple products, as a Windows PC also has iTunes, home sharing, and AirPlay. Android also has AirPlay, thanks to DoubleTwist, but AirPlay doesn’t work with Google TV… As far as I can tell, Google TV has no way to transmit video from an Android device to Google TV. When iOS 5 comes out soon, I will be able to do full screen sharing from my iPad to Apple TV… If you have an iPhone, iPad, or even android device with the double twist AirPlay app, Apple TV is an excellent way to get content from your device onto your TV…

    Apple TV is for those who wish to ditch cable altogether, which many people I know have done. If Apple TV is just a hobby, when they take it seriously, it will be amazing. It’s already far better than Google TV and it’s still less expensive. I got mine for $90. And people still think Apple stuff is so expensive…

    The impressive thing is that they have sports. I am not a sports fan, but that’s what keeps sports fans away from on demand. They have MLB and NBA.

    They can give Google TV away, and I still wouldn’t want it. The fact that most of the content links are blocked is ludicrous. The fact that Google has no qualms with releasing an unfinished product for people to buy at what is still a premium price, is ridiculous.

    Go see for yourself. Go on Amazon and check out the Google TV reviews. Of course, you can do what most Android users do… Drink the Google Koolade and hope that someday the products will be better. Someday they will have the killer apps and everything will work rock solid, and then you will have the last laugh. Well, no,  because I am not loyal to corporations. I got an Apple TV because it just works. It is the best TV device on the market, and the price is excellent. If Google can ever achieve quality and get some semblance of content on their devices, be it Google TV or Android, I will switch. But they have fumbled the ball so many times, and the notion that users should pay to beta test is pretty evil…

    And Google sues too. Look it up. They sued the U.S. Government (um, that’s us tax payers who pay for that) because they went with Microsoft Exchange instead of gmail, which is quite common. I have yet to work for a company or organization that doesn’t use Exchange. It is the email standard for large organizations. It works better than gmail…

    So if you are thinking of buying Google TV because Google does no evil and their search engine is so great, that they must be able to do anything…  Think again. They can’t even make deals with content providers, which is pretty essential to a TV platform.

  14. There is a pretty strong rumor, based by recent Apple capital orders for screens, that the next generation Apple TV will be an actual TV set, screen and all, designed and made by Apple. That will be interesting to see. I don’t know if they can compete with others on price, but they’ve actually been very good at that recently.

    I knew this before I got my Apple TV. I have a nice Sony TV I like very much, and Apple TV is also updatable, so I am assuming that I will be able to get upgrades. From my experience owning a few Apple products, they are better than any other company at giving your purchased products a reasonable life span through upgrades. Microsoft expects people to buy new PCs to run a new OS. Even the vista to 7 upgrade was not possible for some vista early adopters, but XP to 7 (which was the more common case) is not possible… It also seems Android is the same deal, not entirely Google’s fault. It is up to the phone manufacturer to offer new updates of the Android operating system, but from what I have seen, many people have to wait, and often they just stop supporting the device, which someone just bought several months ago!

    That said, Google TV is on Android 2.1 and Android 2.3 is the currently available software. So what you are getting with Google TV is already old hat…

    But hey, if you are into Google and believe that some magic will happen and this great corporation that does no evil will start delivering products that are as good as what’s already on the market, by all means… Drink the koolade! Without competition, as feeble and pathetic as it is, Apple will rest on their laurels. Probably never as bad as Microsoft, as I don’t think any other company will have a market locked in like Microsoft… That said, Microsoft products are better than Google.

    In my opinion, google is sort of like a twitter. Their products are better. But Google’s search engine went viral, and that what the basis to get massive funding through advertising and selling stock. What they have done with this capital is underwhelming. Their bread and butter is still search, but Googlephiles are hoping their “do no evil” corporate heroes, with their wonderful free market mentality (which has worked wonders in our economy) will come up with something good.

    Yes, google TVs are returned often. Android smart phones are also the most returned smart phones — returned twice as often as iPhones.

    Anyway, you are free to worship whatever corporate entities you want. I will always think the company that delivers products that are not ready for market and charges users to be testers, is doing something wrong, bad, and evil…

  15. Oh wow… I thought Google TV had DVR capabilities, because you do connect it to your cable (which I ditched, because it’s 2011 and everything decent to watch is on demand). Reading the Amazon reviews, some people think it does. Wow, it’s even worse than I thought. So it has an integrated TV guide?!? Big woop. Wow, I can’t believe they were charging $300 for this piece of crap. Even $99 is overpriced. Heck, if you have cable, just run it into your TV. Your cable box is probably more reliable than Google TV.

    I think Apple gets it, though. Lots of people, particularly younger people, are ditching cable and watching content on their laptops or iPads. Apple TV is the glue between the on demand Internet world, and the HDMI input on your TV.

    Apple TV also has a t

  16. Sorry… To finish my thought, Apple TV also has digital audio out, so with one Toslink connector, you can connect to a surround sound system.

    One of the common uses of my Apple TV is to play music through AirPlay or home sharing. I turn on my Mac and turn on the speakers in my den. I turn on my tv which is connected to my stereo. From there I can use either the Apple tv remote and interface to control iTunes, or my iPhone or iPad. My TV, iPad, and/or iPhone display the album cover of whatever is playing. Pretty slick… That’s an ecosystem.

    Funny, because Phandroidbois always tell me that Android is a system and iOS is a product. No, Android is a kit. Phone makers have to put a lot of work into developing SenseUI, MotoBlur, or Whiz, because stock Android is not very good. Android users need to fiddle with their devices and use web apps (what Google now calls “the cloud”) for basic tasks like banking, because many banks don’t trust Android. For example, Capital One only makes an iOS app, and all others must use their mobile website. Android users don’t have very good ways of wirelessly sharing media, buying music, etc. With the Apple ecosystem, there are so many ways to do it, and they’re all easy, and they all just work… No fiddling, rooting, custom roms, property editing, etc. required. The Phandroids I know relish in fiddling with gadgets. I am very technical, a java ee software engineer, and quite honestly, the last thing I want to do is come home and fiddle with a media system… As an engineer, I also strive to make products that just work and require the minimal fiddling. Kind of like how many frameworks in the java ee world (struts 2) are going with intelligent defaults and conventions, to make development quick, painless, and less buggy. Computers evolve into systems that are easy to use, but some people still like fiddling, and claim it’s freedom and flexibility… No, it’s half baked products…

    Oh, and the other great thing is that when I play music through my home, it’s all in sync. I used a different solution before, with a wireless audio transmitter. On paper, it seemed like a great product — designed by a German company, with amazing specs 24 bit/96khz wireless audio. But the thing had about 15ms of latency between the source and the receiver. So whenever I was partway between rooms, there was this slight, yet perceptible, delay. Very annoying. Home sharing and AirPlay are totally in sync. It’s beyond just sending a file to another device to play… They play in sync. Essential for music enjoyment… With this ecosystem in place, I listen to so much more music. It is a pleasure to use…

    Look, I am not an Apple fanboi. After using Windows for some 20 years, I got a Mac 2 years ago, and after the initial 1 week learning curve, I loved the Mac. It is rock solid. It just works. I still check out other products, but I almost always buy Apple stuff. In fact, I even got their Airport Extreme wireless router, and it exceeded my expectations. Needless to say, I had misgivings about spending twice as much on a wireless router. It works perfectly — easy to configure (even complicated setups are easy to set up and secure) and exceptional range.

    What I would like is a world where I don’t always buy Apple products. But the sad fact is, they seem to be one of the few corporations that listens to the customer and tries to deliver a product that works well. Not perfect, but better than anything else. I’d put Honda and Sony (despite their security woes) into that class as well. I have to wonder how long Sony will put up with Google TV… So far they just put their toe into the water…

    I’m not a fanboi… If Google can deliver QUALITY products with content and an ecosystem of products that work together, for less than Apple, I will buy into it…

    But sheesh, you really have to take a big swig of the Google Koolade to buy the crap they are slopping out these days. If it continues, Google will be synonymous with poor quality…

    Even Microsoft is taking pot shots at Google. Their new Dilbert ad campaign for Windows phone is blatantly calling Android an iPhone rip off. So true…

    That’s what I don’t like about Google. Apart from their search engine and some very well done web apps, they tend to copy others, claim it is better, but it really sucks…

    Prove me wrong, Google… Until then, I will be happy in my Apple ecosystem, where everything just works, and works well. Where I have choices as to what content to watch, because Apple actually has content providers that will work with them, instead of blocking them… Where I can download an app without worrying about having my identity stolen, or malware which has affected hundreds of thousands of Android users…

    I mean, you really gotta take a big swig of the Google Koolade to even buy this stuff for $50. It’s not surprising that so many people return their Google TVs and Android devices. Jeeze, that Motorola Xune was an abortion, not a product… How can they sell this crap, and claim to do no evil…

  17. The Google TV UI looks really bad compared to Apple TV…

    Also, where’s the music? How do you play music and content from your computer on Google TV?

    Half baked and expensive…

  18. Dirk sounds mad that Android is kicking Apple’s ass, so he insults everybody who uses Android. He claims not to be and Apple “fanboy” while everything he owns is Apple. What an idiot, and a hypocrite.

    Enjoy being trapped and held hostage by your Apple “ecosystem” while everyone else with a brain of their own will prefer to live free of Apple’s constraints and enjoy Android’s open source platform.

  19. Whoa Dirk really went on a tangent there! Easy Dirk, there are people that are going to love Apple and those that are not. This camp here are not into Apple so save your breath trying to convince us that we are all so wrong. We like what we like and so do you. No one here is forcing you to go with a GTV box at all so if you don’t like it, don’t buy it and leave us all alone.

    With that done, Google recently purchased SageTV, a HTPC DVR software company. I’ve been using Sagetv for quite some time now and have yet to find any offering that comes close to what they offer in terms of functionality, expandability and features. I picked up a Logitech kit recently because of the Sagetv purchase and the rumors started there on the future of Sagetv and GTV together.

    Get ready folks, things are going to get interesting soon.

    A.