Google wants to redefine the TV experience. They want you to spend less time finding, more time watching. They want you to be able to control and personalize what you watch. They want to make your content more interesting, and they want to make your TV into much more than a TV. They intend to do all of this with Google TV.
Users spend 4-5 hours a day on TV. Google recognizes that they want to watch TV, so anything that subtracts from what is on-screen is bad. Their UI is focused around putting an overlay on what is already on the TV. It adds content, but never subtracts or pulls you away from content.
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They've given you a search box, in order to capture the “feeling of empowerment” that Google search gives users. This seems kind of arrogant, but think back to the first time you ever used Google. That was a pretty stunning experience. Anyway, the quick search box takes you wherever you want to go across TV and Web. Searching MSNBC will give you a variety of both TV and web search results. You can visit the channel, or the website.
Searching can also be done by shows. It'll give you present and future show results, future results will prompt a DVR “record” option.
By the way, during the actual presentation of these features the demo was stalled entirely for several minutes. The presenter ended up asking his partner about thirty times, “Can we switch to the other box?” By the end of the demo, every utterance of this phrase was met with gales of laughter. The poor man on stage looked as embarrassed as anyone I have ever seen. They ended up asking everyone to turn off their phones so they could present the demo.
Eventually, things got up and running again. A search for “House” brought up a page with the upcoming TV episodes, as well as links to Amazon.com and sites that broadcast full episodes live. You can switch seamlessly to the browser, pay for an episode, and immediately be streaming and watching the episode on your TV.
Google has also developed a “browsing mode”. You'll be able to see a personalized screen that gives you advice based on your previous viewing choices. There is also a netflix submenu with its own movie suggestions. Google bragged endlessly about the seamless switching between TV and the Internet. Basically, you can do everything you already can with a media box, only it happens overlaid above TV, not a static desktop.
The coolest part of Google TV: the ability to turn your Android phone into an Android remote. Multiple controls can handle the TV at once. The phones can connect via HDMI or act as an IR blaster to send it wirelessly. The audience nearly fainted when he showed off voice control of a TV set-top box via an android phone. You can push URLs and videos to the TV, too.
Google TV is built on 2.1 right now. It will eventually upgrade to 2.2, because it can handle over the air updates. The Google TV has three parts; Android, Chrome, and Flash 10.1. Android Apps (and the mobile version of the Android market) will all work on TV. If your app doesn't have phone specific hardware, it will work on Google TV.
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Sony and Logitech are the only partners we have seen confirmed so far for Google TV. Could the set box be coming from one of them?