By Harry McCracken | Friday, October 28, 2011 at 8:25 am
A year ago, the first devices based on Google TV–Logitech’s Revue box and some Sony TVs–debuted. Initial irrational exuberance over for the platform melted away quickly: The software was buggy and confusing, and major media companies such as the big networks started blocking Google TV from streaming their content.
And then everybody sort of forgot about Google TV for the most part. Google occasionally said that it was working on an improved version, but the platform made news most recently when Logitech said that the Revue’s sales had been catastrophically bad. I began to worry the Google TV wouldn’t make the cut of arrows that Google wanted to put wood behind.
Now Google is talking about Google TV again. Rather than hyping expectations, the company is taking an intentionally subdued approach–its blog post is titled merely “An Update on Google TV,” which sounds at first like it might be a warning that it’s winding down. But the news is good: Sony TVs will be getting the new version early next week, and the Revue will get it soon thereafter. (There apparently won’t be any new Google TV devices until 2012.)
After just about everybody agreed that Google TV was too complex, the company decided to focus on making it simpler. For the most part, it sounds like it’s not adding new stuff so much as trying to make what’s already there easier to use. It’s streamlining the interface, beefing up the emphasis on YouTube, and introducing a new Movies & TV app designed to help you find stuff to watch, whether it’s on cable or on the Internet. (The original Google TV had a feature that let you Google for TV in a way that felt much like the classic Google search engine–it’s still there, too.)
Oh, and there’s one major addition that will give Google TV all-new capabilities: This Android-based software is finally getting access to the Android Market. You’ll only see apps–about fifty at first–that will work well on a TV, including existing ones and ones tailored specifically to Google TV.
It’s dangerous to get too excited about Google TV based on screenshots and explanations and videos–after all, the original version demoed a lot better than it actually worked. But I’m glad to see that Google has been so quiet not because it had lost interest but because it didn’t want to raise expectations too high. Google TV still has plenty of potential–and nobody else, including Apple, has nailed the living-room Internet TV box yet.
I’m going to update the Revue I have when the new version is available and will let you know what I think.