Posted by Rami Radi,
Jul 04, 2012
On 16 July, Google will introduce its first interactive TV service into the UK television market as Google TV is finally made available to British consumers, nearly 2 years after its launch in the US.
The £200 voice-controlled gadget, in partnership with Sony, will offer web-connected TV allowing the user to surf the internet, watch videos and play games with its motion-controlled remote.
The device is based on Google’s Android software for smartphones and will let viewers switch between popular online applications such as Facebook and Twitter while watching live TV. The service will give access to thousands of Android apps including 150 optimised for television, as well as access to BBC iPlayer, YouTube and hundreds of thousands of films. Android phone users will be able to use their handsets as a remote control for the new box and the service will also be built into Sony Blu-Ray players from October.
More TV apps will soon be made available as other ‘Smart-TV’ devices enter the market. Samsung, LG and, most notably, Apple all plan to enter an area of the entertainment market not yet revolutionised by the internet, with Google hoping to capitalise on Apple’s delay in launching their own Smart TV.
Reception in the U.S.
Earlier versions of Google’s TV service struggled in the US, where it launched in October 2010. Logitech, a partner, reportedly lost $100m after producing one of the first Google TV devices – a set-top box – and launching it at Christmas 2010. During one quarter, more boxes were returned than sold and the company later pulled out.
The continued refusal by major US cable companies to permit access to their programming via Google TV undoubtedly had a devastating effect on the service. And naturally, the absence of these channels makes the experience far less attractive to customers.
A crowded living room
However, there were other destructive forces involved that contributed to the lack of Google TV adoption. I feel the prospect of investing in yet another set-top box to place under the TV, in an already crowded living room, is partly to blame for this lack of initial interest. Also, dual screening has become such an integral part of how we watch TV and viewers generally interact with programmes via phones, tablets and laptops, instead of overlaying content directly on to the screen itself. And these mobile devices are so widely used it might suggest there isn’t the requirement to access the internet via your TV, not to mention the inconvenience for anyone else trying to watch at the same time!
Subscription services such as Sky TV and Virgin Media will likely block Google TV from accessing their content, but due to the availability of Freesat and Freeview I expect Google to sidestep many of the obstacles they faced in the US market. Although eventually I’m sure it will become standard practise to access the internet on practically any surface you want, in the immediate future I feel Google TV is a luxury reserved for technology lovers rather than a necessity for the average consumer.