Back in May 2010, Google announced plans to launch “Google TV”, a software offering available either in a set-top box or built into TV sets and designed to integrate television with the Web. Google TV officially launched in October of that year, but has so far failed to catch on with consumers.
Addressing the platform’s shortcomings, Google announced that it will launch a major software update intended to significantly improve the functionality of the Google TV software. Among the most notable improvements are a streamlined interface with improved searching capabilities and compatibility with apps through the Android Market.
The interface is now much simpler. The new customizable home screen gets you to your favorite content quickly. And within “all apps” you can see all of your shortcuts, similar to your Android phone or tablet.
We are opening up the TV to the creativity of content creators large and small through Android Market. Android developers can now bring existing mobile apps or entirely new ones to TV. Initially, the number of apps won’t be large – apps requiring a touch screen, GPS, or telephony won’t show up – but 50 developers have seeded the Market with cool and useful apps for the TV. We’re excited to see the number of apps grow.
The update will be rolling out to Sony devices early next week, with Logitech’s set-top boxes set to receive the update shortly after.
Google’s movements in the television space have been closely watched by Apple observers, in part due to Apple’s own efforts in the market with the Apple TV, which was relaunched late last year as a set-top box for streaming content. Apple has also been said to be working on its own connected television set, according to Nick Bilton of the New York Times. The TV, which will include extensive voice control courtesy of Siri, could be announced as soon as late 2012 with a consumer release in 2013. Bilton quotes anonymous sources saying that an Apple television is a “guaranteed product for Apple” because “Steve thinks the industry is totally broken”, which is echoed by passages in Steve Jobs’ biography.
Bilton says the project has been in the works for years, perhaps as far back as 2007 (the year the iPhone launched and the company launched the Apple TV set-top box. As far as controlling the new set:
It’s the stuff of science fiction. You sit on your couch and rather than fumble with several remotes or use hand gestures, you simply talk: “Put on the last episode of Gossip Girl.” “Play the local news headlines.” “Play some Coldplay music videos.” Siri does the rest.
See how Siri currently is working the new Iphone 4s in this latest Apple commercial;
Of course this experience goes beyond just playing TV shows or the local news. As the line between television programming and Web content continues to erode, a Siri-powered television would become more necessary. You aren’t going to want to flip through file folders or baskets of content, checking off what you want. Telling Siri to “play videos of cute cats falling asleep” would return an endless YouTube stream of adorable napping fur balls.
Bilton firmly believes the television is coming, but says the company “still has quite a bit of work to do on the project”, citing the physical design of the TV in particular. He also cites the expense of the display itself, though those prices are falling rapidly.
In a bid to set aside the speculation about if an Apple television is in the works, the piece finishes simply, “it is coming though. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”