There is such a thing as too much information. As Google recently discovered with Buzz, helping people connect to and access information instantaneously in ever more imaginative ways isn’t always a big success.
The feeling amongst many was that with Buzz, Google had gone a bit over the top in trying to bring more information and interactivity to the masses. In the end, Buzz ended up being an overwhelming and rather confusing product that failed to live up to the hype.
Google TV is the next big Google product due to hit the airwaves this fall. Having conquered the internet, it was only a matter of time before Google took on the broadcasting world. However, I can’t help feeling that once again Google may have misjudged just how much information users really want and need, how much they’re prepared to pay for Google products and whether mixing the internet with television viewing is necessarily a good idea.
Google TV is a software platform for set-top boxes and HDTVs based on the Android operating system. However, its not an exclusively Google product. The company have teamed-up with Intel, Sony and Logitech to develop it meaning this is one of the most commercial ventures Google have ventured into.
In particular, three issues immediately spring to mind regarding whether it will take off or not:
1. It requires purchasing set-top box
Unless you have a web enabled HDTV, you will need to purchase a set top box to access Google TV. This could be the the first stumbling block as its questionable how many users will be willing to pay for a new set-top box when they’ve already got one for their current TV provider. After all, one of the things that has made Google products so popular is that not only are they great, but they’re free as well.
2. Program searching and recording are no big innovations
Google’s expertise in search technology will surely make searching for your favorite content and programs easier than ever. However, most digital set-top boxes allow you to search and one-touch record programs already. Google are hardly pushing the boundaries by making this one of their key selling points of Google TV.
3. Web surfing via the TV is no big deal or pleasure
You can already surf the web on your TV using browsers built into devices such as Playstations and Wiis. However, how many people really use it on a regular basis? Not many and the reason is because surfing the web on your TV simply isn’t a comfortable experience compared to using a computer. Using an on screen keyboard, reading lengthy articles and navigating without a mouse mean that most people prefer to use their computer for general web surfing. The Xbox, Playstation and Wii have failed to succeed in this area – why should a Google set top box.
Traditionally, Google products have been motivated by a simple desire to make users’ lives easier. However, some suspect that Google TV has been motivated by a desire to make serious money from advertising. It’s not clear the format Google ads will take on Google TV but the company are surely seduced by the fact that TV advertising is where the big money lies. The New York Times certainly thinks so saying that the aim of Google TV is to “ensure that its…search and advertising systems, play a central role.”
That said, there are some exciting prospects to Google TV. The ability for independent developers to create widgets for your TV in the same way as they can for Android phones is particularly intriguing. Imagine for example a widget that can automatically record your favorite sporting events automatically or track when programs made by your favorite director will be aired. And as Android on mobiles has proved, just because Google are new to a particular field, doesn’t mean they can’t succeed where others have failed.
Tune-in this fall to see how this latest venture fares.