3 weeks ago, Google unveiled their new Google TV service, intending to combine the best of both television and the web into one integrated experience. Based on the Android operating system and powered by Intel’s Atom CE4100 processor chip, Google TV will find its way into Sony flat-screen HDTVs and certain Logitech devices come fall 2010 in North America initially.
Google has said that TV is wildly popular because it “just works”. Over 4 billion people in the world own a television, with the average British viewer spending 30 hours per week in front of a TV. However, more and more people are turning to the Internet in order to watch videos, which Google claims is an inferior experience because they usually have to do so on a smaller computer screen. In Google’s vision, family members wishing to watch a video online should be able to enjoy it on a larger-sized TV instead of having to huddle around the computer.
A few companies have tried their hands at merging digital online content with HD TVs. Most notably, the Apple TV has thus far failed to generate any sort of significant consumer interest. Following Google’s announcement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs remarked that he thought the Google TV project would ultimately fail, predicting that it’s going to be too difficult to convince customers to buy an additional set-top box for Google TV service.
However, this isn’t strictly true. Sony has already announced plans to begin shipping HDTV sets (to be marketed as “Sony Internet TV”) and Blu-ray players with built-in Google TV functionality. While this means that buyers will still have to shell out for a brand new Sony TV, at least it represents a convenient all-in-one solution.
Google TV promises to let consumers watch what they want, when they want. No more changing channels hoping to find something interesting… you can simply search for your favorite programs. The Internet revolutionised personal computers in the mid 1990s and more recently it has revolutionised the mobile phone industry. It seems highly likely that the television industry will be next. So far, no one has figured out how to do it successfully, but given the technology heavyweights’ backing in this venture, Google (and Sony) may just have what it takes.