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On Having a Google TV

Thu, 08/09/2012 - 01:17 -- rprice

I am an Android guy. After owning a Nokia N96 and an iPod touch at the same time, upgrading to the HTC EVO was like the best of both worlds. Always-on connection plus awesome music and podcasting client. In order to test out web pages I also purchased a Toshiba Thrive 10". Last but not least, since I develop web pages to be viewed on televisions, I thought a Sony Google TV box would round out my Android collection nicely. At this point, I don't really use the Google Play Books or Movies all that much. The music service is pretty useful when my NAS is not working, but still leaves something to be desired.

One of the biggest problems with owning a Google TV is the NETWORKS. While many Cable or over-the-air TV networks have caught on with the smartphone, set-top-box (some would say under-set-box, or set-side-box) revolution, for some reason they don't want to let Google TV users play stuff directly through their box. Some of their websites will let you use them on Google TV. Most won't. Many blog posts have been written quoting the message about how Hulu is "working hard" to bring their content to Google TV. I call shenanigans.

Then today, I see this tweet, and leave the following reply:

If TV is one of the next great battlegrounds, then it seems like Apple, even with their crippled little hockey puck, is still beating Google. Can they figure this out already? What with the Google Fiber TV service and all the content deals on the mobile devices, the one that's plugged into the wall is still a second-class citizen. I don't get it.

EDIT:

Don't believe me that TV is (one of) the next battleground(s)? Look at some of these kickstarter projects that plug in to a TV:

EDIT: Phil left this in the comments: http://androidtvbox.us/ proving my point further. Also on Amazon: G-Box HD Android Box

That's just on Kickstarter. The TV makes sense because the cost of adoption (not just monetarily) is incredibly low. We all upgraded our sets, built rooms around TVs and entertainment systems, and are starting to make sure the TV can connect to the home network. Now the innovators step in, after all the hard stuff is done. It would have been so hard to put together an open source gaming console in a pre-Android, pre-Raspberry Pi and pre-smart-tv world.

Has the Google TV brought new content into my living room? Undoubtedly. A few apps like Crunchyroll, Clicker and NFB Films have definitely helped, and the built-in directory of TV-friendly websites, Spotlight, is always a great place to browse. The fact that this thing has a full web browser and Flash player is a huge boon, although it has also been a bane in the past.

Lately, however, certain apps have been reporting that their latest updated versions won't work on my Google TV, like Google's official Play Music app, and the aforementioned Crunchyroll. It brings a tear to my eye.

One unexpected benefit of the box is that it makes a great phone charger. The USB port on the front is nice to have - one less charger to keep track of, and if I really want to show someone a few photos or videos from a memory card, I can plug the reader in there.

Presumably the newer Google TV "buddy boxes" like the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player have gotten an updated interface, at least in the remote control department. Having used the keyboard control of the Logitech Revue, I found that I much preferred my game-controller style keyboard, but the latest offering from Sony (and Vizio as well) is more old-school-tevelision-remote-like. If you get tired of the controllers you can always use the remote app for your Android or iPhone. It works really well, especially if you're already used to typing on your phone.

After saying all that, would I still recommend a Roku or Apple TV? Not instead of a laptop with an HDMI port. That is still the king of all home media devices, and probably will remain so until Microsoft cripples the HDMI port or the TV networks figure out how to in existing operating systems.

What sort of a "buddy box" or other Home Theatre PC setup have you been using? Were you able to watch any Olympics on it? HBO? Hulu? Enjoyable Games? Not on a Google TV.

We know they all do Netflix, but there are few other common denominators. This post would have been very different a few months ago, before YouTube movie rentals. Now they are on pretty even footing.

On the other hand... What about Web pages? Installable apps? Amazon Instant Video? Pandora? Google TV shines for these. And I use several off these features every day.

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