Can Google reinvent the television?

Our lives are dominated by technology. We consume entertainment on our televisions, converse with people through our mobile phones, work on our computers and browse the internet (if you can afford it) on a tablet device sitting around the home. Whilst the purposes of these different devices may blend into one another, the major screen in the average home is only used for a few functions: watching television, DVD’s and playing computer games.

This may seem like a grand overstatement. After all, it’s perfectly easy to browse the internet on a laptop whilst watching television. In fact, it’s perfectly easy to read the latest news on an average smartphone whilst watching _Come Dine With Me_. So what’s the point of merging the internet with televisions? Mixing the two is nothing new. Over the past few years, many manufactures have tried to cross the gap, creating widgets for news, weather and social networking in their brand of television. What separates Google from these is their ability to span every make of television. Like Freeview, Google TV has the ability to be sold as a ‘box’ that can be plugged into any television, or, as Sony has demonstrated, installed into the television itself.

Furthermore, as Google TV is based on Android (an operating system for smartphones), one major component can go wide screen: The App.

Apps are now dominant in any smartphone user’s life. Instead of checking Facebook in a web browser, it’s now easy to see what your friends are up to in an app that is optimised and designed for the phone you are using. It makes accessing information easier and more enjoyable. By bringing apps to a television, it allows the user to bypass multiple devices and use the real estate of a large screen to watch programmes whilst checking Twitter.

The real benefit of this is to make the consumers’ experience enjoyable. Instead of being a chore, web browsing could compliment watching a television programme. Take The Inbetweeners as an example. If you wanted to know the age of the actors, instead of searching on your phone, or checking on a laptop, you could search in a real web browser on your television.

So, Google TV changes the way a television is used. But is it for the better? Will consumers want multitasking televisions, especially when it will set them back at least £200? Furthermore, since a keyboard is needed to operate the menus and enter text, does it really separate itself from a computer?

It could be said that Google TV is trying to simplify the home. By allowing casual internet browsing on a television, it frees up space on a computer for those that want to use it for programmes that need the power a computer can provide. It allows the internet to be a flexible entity, breaking the bonds of the computer and moving to a different medium.

But the internet has been flexible for years. Google’s target consumers now have laptops, smartphones and tablet devices to themselves, enabling them to use the internet without the ‘home computer’ (if such a thing exists anymore).

Furthermore, the television is a focal point of social interaction. If a family sit down to watch The X Factor together, they’re not going to want their eldest daughter to bring up the Facebook app to check photos from her first night on the town (and she certainly won’t want her parents to see them). The internet, whilst public, also has a private sphere and consumer’s won’t want their Facebook messages spread out in front of their nearest and dearest.

Whether consumers flock to Google TV remains to be seen – as it hasn’t gone on sale yet. The choice will fall to the individual to decide whether obstructing the television with apps and internet browsers is worth the convenience it brings. In addition, with products such as the iPad selling millions, ‘casual’ internet browsing options only seem to be growing. It could be suggested that, if people were willing to keep a keyboard next to them whilst watching television, they could as easily hold an iPad, keeping the television free of intrusions and having the internet at constant touching distance. Also, with the largest and highest quality of apps on the planet, the versatility of the device far surpasses that of Google TV.

In my opinion, Google TV has the potential to succeed, but with devices such as the iPad having sold millions already, it will be a tough job to persuade consumers to interact with the internet through their televisions. The organic interface of a tablet device lends itself to browsing the internet, whereas the user is still stuck with a keyboard and mouse to interact with a television. However, like most new technology, I could easily be proved wrong.

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