Google TV: First Impressions

So last night, we added a Google TV device to the household. It’s a Logitech Revue, one of the three current gTV options.

Setting the Revue up is pretty simple. Power cable. HDMI in from your DVR or cable box, HDMI out to the TV (one HDMI cable is included). Wifi built in (or you can jack in an ethernet cable if you wish). The on-screen setup went smoothly, although the Revue did hang after downloading an update. needing a quick power off / power on to get things going again. You’re asked for a Google account, which isn’t a big deal but does create an issue for households with more than one Google user — whose account do you add to the TV? Or should you create a special gTV account to be shared by all? The hardest part was setting up the connection to your TV and DVR or other set-top box — you’ll be asked for the specific model numbers for each.

At any rate, eventually you’re all done and your new Google TV is ready to roll.

So what did I do first? Check out YouTube. gTV has something called “YouTube Leanback” built in as a custom channel – mostly music videos and content from key partners. You can also use the built-in Chrome browser to log into your own YouTube account and use YouTube just like you would on your computer (my choice). The Logitech keyboard / touchpad works well for navigating around the screen and I was quickly able to start watching my saved favorites in full-screen mode on our 46″ TV.

Performance was a non-issue. Of course, watching older, non-HD video on a big HDTV isn’t exactly a challenge, so next I gave Netflix a shot. After activating the gTV with my Netflix account, my queue came up on screen and I was able to dive right in. Performance was no different than what I get when watching Netflix streamed via my TiVo. [Side note, this is now device #3 in the living room capable of streaming Netflix to our TV. I really need to get streaming Netflix into other rooms of the house now.]

So far, so good. I don’t like basketball so I gave the NBA app a pass, nor do I have a lot of photos in Picasa so I couldn’t do much with that. There are some other apps (HBO GO, CNBC, Twitter, etc) I have yet to check out as well.

I’d like to see more apps on the gTV of course – for example, as a subscriber it’s a little frustrating to see Napster and Pandora there but not my preferred streaming music provider. It will be a few months before there’s a healthy pipeline of new gTV apps, so I’ll have to be patient.

At this point, my main concern is — who is the target market for the Google TV? As The Spouse pointed out, people like us already generally watch TV with a laptop parked in our laps. We can search, Tweet, etc in the living room already. For that kind of user, the use-case would be in rooms of the house where you have a TV set up but don’t necessarily want to haul a laptop – like the kitchen or bedroom. Originally I was going to set the gTV up in the bedroom, in fact, but we have an older cable box and DVR in there and as such don’t have the necessary HD connectivity.

For slightly less geeky families, having a Google TV in the living room could be a big win — if they nail the user experience. It’s good, especially for a 1.0 version, but could be a little more friendly.

With US midterm elections this Tuesday, I’m really interested to see how well the web browser / TV picture in picture setup will play out – having Twitter and MSNBC on the same screen could be a lot of fun.

4 thoughts on “Google TV: First Impressions”

  1. The night after we found out that everyone at MAX was getting a Google TV I was sitting around in the bar talking with other developers about the possibilities. At first we were pretty much of the opinion that it wasn’t that big a deal. Sure, we can sit on the couch and watch website video content. Okay, great. Not earth shattering.

    But then we started brain-storming ideas and after a few minutes realized that there are lots of amazing possibilities. Especially when we get AIR on that box. Flash will make it possible for the channels to add more interactive content. But AIR will let us developers create our own interactive content to overlay what other channels bring you. We’ll have to wait and see how the apps integrate but it seems reasonable that I’d be able to watch, say a football game, and have my AIR app running over it.

    At any rate: I think Adobe/Google gave us these boxes to figure out just what can be done. I’m excited to start playing.

    Thanks Adobe and Google!

  2. “At this point, my main concern is — who is the target market for the Google TV? As The Spouse pointed out, people like us already generally watch TV with a laptop parked in our laps. We can search, Tweet, etc in the living room already”

    I don’t understand what your saying, if your saying that holding a laptop and 3 remotes in your lap while you watch TV is comfortable, than I disagree. We are a nation of convenience, 5 gadgets to do 2 things is not convenient. I really don’t understand your wifes comment. If you could do EVERYTHING from one remote, in one location, without changing anything, altering anything or for that matter looking away from your screen. Then why would you opt for the most irrational way to do that with a laptop and remotes. Having said that, Google TV is crap, bought, returned it. It doesn’t do as promised and since it requires cable/satellite and we aim to get rid of cable it was not for us.

    Your question is good, who is Googles market. The thought process is flawed, their market is people who want to search for things from their TV. Thats it! Because thats all the unit does, without DishNet or an affiliated provider most of the functions of the unit don’t even work. Its a overwhelming waste of money, read the reviews, go on google and search “Google TV” reviews. Every major and minor tech reviewer destroyed the hardware, the software and the remote as low quality or what have you.


    1. Thanks for the comment Barb. Please note that “The Spouse” cited in the blog post is my husband Scott. 🙂

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