September 07, 2010, 7:50 AM — Now that Apple's iTV has stepped out from the shadows and disappointed many of us (for now, I still think we'll see an eventual upgrade with some kind of plug-in/app support) it's time to start looking forward to Google TV. Will it be more of a crowd pleaser then iTV was? The big disappointment with iTV for me was lack of content. I already have Netflix streaming on a handful of devices in my entertainment center, and I'm not all that interested in buying 99 cent TV episodes from a grand selection of two networks. But does Google TV offer more?
I'm finding it hard to answer that question. I see lots of talk about Google TV (see for example, this Engadget post about Sony TV's with Google TV built in) but I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around exactly what it is.
Anonymous beta tester guy to the rescue. Below I'm going to embed a video made by someone who is testing Logitech's Google TV stand alone box, the Revue. This video offers a lot of details. You can see apps for Netflix (of course) and Amazon Video-on-Demand. YouTube, Facebook, a photo Gallery app, something called Game Time, Pandora, Twitter, a DLNA player (for streaming from your computer) and more. It seems to offer content from many, many internet sources.
I go back to being confused when the narrator talks about TV. The Revue can show you a listing of content from any and every source. That seems great, but how does it know what I have on my DVR? Does the service provider have to pair with Google to make this work? For instance I have a FiOS DVR app on my iPad that lets me see everything I have recorded. Maybe Revue uses the same kind of tech? If so, is Google TV something I'm going to have to get from my TV provider?
One really enticing statement the narrator makes is about recording content "into the cloud" rather than on your DVR. Does Google TV provide an infinite DVR? No more 'DVR guilt' because our hard drives are getting full? Yes, please.
Speaking about the Revue specifically, it has Logitech's Harmony Remote technology on-board, which means it can control everything in your entertainment center. The narrator points out 3 IR blasters on the front of the Revue that are supposed to control all your devices. That makes me a little nervous. Now maybe IR blaster technology has improved significantly, but the last time I used them was with an early TIVO. At that time I had to 'hang' the blasters directly over the receptors on my cable tv box, and still it tended to be unreliable. By the time I had the TIVO system perfected I'd built a cardboard and aluminum foil 'tent' over the blaster to help it work better.
My current remote controls flake out if I don't point them 'just so' at the device I'm trying to control. So how are IR blasters on the front of the Revue (and thus presumably facing out into the room rather than at the components) going to function effectively? Maybe they're much more powerful than earlier tech, so the IR light bounces around the room more evenly. Are there any CE experts out there who can clarify this for us?
Anyway, watch this video and let me know what you think. I'm geeking out over what I see, but in truth the Revue might be too much for most people. Is it going to be too complicated for the average TV watcher? If iTV is too little, and Google TV too much, what's going to slot into that 'just right' position? Are we back on the Roku, or will the Boxee box fill that slot?