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Tag Archives: smart TV

Are we ready for Google TV?

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Google TV

Are we ready for Google TV?

Do we want the web on our televisions?

For many years there’s been a push to bridge the gap between the internet and our televisions. Early efforts were rather clunky and it eventually became clear that people were more interested in online content and services rather than actually browsing the web. When you look at the latest Smart TV features built into home entertainment gear from the likes of Sony, Samsung and LG, they’re all about watching online video and tapping into social media rather than scrolling through web pages.

Despite this trend towards online services, some gadgets are still keen to bring the web to the big screen. The Android-powered Google TV is a classic example. After initially stumbling, Google TV media players are finally coming to Australia via Sony. For now you can only get a Google TV from Sony if you buy a new high-end Bravia television, but eventually they’ll be sold as standalone devices.

This latest iteration of Google TV is different to your typical media player. Rather than connecting to a separate input on your television, the Google TV features an HDMI passthrough. You plug your Personal Video Recorder or other video source into the Google TV set-top box, then plug the Google TV into your television.

This kind of setup lets the Google TV act as a traditional media player and tap into online video. But it also lets the Google TV display web content on top of, or alongside, what you’re watching. For example, you can use picture-in-picture to display a web page alongside a live broadcast — handy if you want to look up an actor on the Internet Movie Database while you’re watching the movie. Alternatively you might want to interact with Twitter or Facebook while you’re watching TV, as many of us already do via a “second screen” such as a notebook, tablet or smartphone.

The Google TV can’t actually interact with live broadcasts, because it doesn’t know what you’re watching, but that kind of functionality is on the roadmap. You can expect television-focused check-in apps such as Miso, GetGlue and Intonow to come to the various Smart TV platforms. Think of them as Foursquare for entertainment, letting your friends know what you’re watching right now. Some are also designed to provide complementary information about what you’re watching — an obvious drawcard for advertisers.

Merging television and the web sounds intriguing, but it also sounds rather inconsiderate of anyone else in the room who is trying to watch the television. Other people don’t want to be distracted by your inane social media chatter while they’re trying to watch their favourite shows. That’s why the current “second screen” system works so well, because everyone in the room can do their own thing without annoying other people.

Google TV might make sense for tech-savvy singles, but it might lose its shine once you’re sharing your lounge room with your significant other.


Smart TVs: Are They Smart?

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I’ve been working in the tech industry for long enough to see some real clunker products along the way. From PCs shaped like fish to messaging clients that relied on slow GSM networks, there have been some memorably dud products. One that stands out in memory as a particularly odd product was LG’s Internet Fridge, a $17,000 food cooling device that also included an internet-connected computer in the door.

It didn’t sell well. Technology-improved versions of gadgets haven’t typically set the world on fire, largely because the costs have generally been high — why would you spend seventeen thousand dollars on a low-rent PC tacked onto a fridge when you could spend a couple of thousand on a large fridge and the same on a laptop — and feature sets haven’t exactly enhanced the experience of using the device. I may be a fan of social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook, but that doesn’t mean I need to update my status while I’m grabbing some milk.

Oddly enough, LG’s having another crack at the Internet Fridge concept again, with models announced at this year’s CES trade show back in January, but that was a minor concept next to the next big thing to get a tech makeover, that being the concept of “Smart” TVs. Most of the major TV vendors have a Smart TV platform now, offering up social networking, light internet browsing, some games and access to catch-up TV services from the ABC and Channel 7. There’s support for developers to make TV-specific applications, but as yet there’s no central standard for those applications, which means the features and apps available on one manufacturer’s TVs may not be available on the other.

The Smart TV concept probably has more legs than the Internet Connected Fridge, Wireless Toaster or MixMaster-With-Inbuilt Fax (not that those last two actually exist) simply because they’ve largely been priced at the same kinds of price points we’re used to seeing TVs priced at, so you’re not spending too much extra for those features. More critically they’re better because the features they offer make a certain amount of sense. When I’m watching TV and want to check something, the option to quickly bring up a web page makes sense. With the addition of a camera, the opportunity to hook up a video Skype call with the entire family sitting on the couch makes sense. If there’s a brief pause for some advertising, I’d probably rather while the time away with a quick ad-hoc game than being told why I should buy this year’s rustbucket. You get the idea.

It’s early days for the Smart TV concept. What do you think? Will your next TV purchase be a Smart TV, or will the concept go colder than the Internet Fridge?


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