Friday, 11 May 2012

Google TV is Coming

Connected TVs have been around for a while, at least for a few years. The pick up speed has been pretty slow and many consumers as well as developers seem to be confused about the devices. What are they for and why should they care?

This article is a primer for my next article, Designing for TV, that is going to follow soon.

Connected TV offering

There are multiple competing platforms of connected TVs. Many manufacturers have their own, like the Samsung Smart TV. Then there are various streaming boxes that are built by non-TV manufacturers like the Roku box. Most of these solutions tightly couple the manufacturer to the devices. Consumers cannot take apps from one manufacturer to another. It isn't an optimal solution for consumer neither is it for developers. This kind of closed ecosystems are unlikely to attract enough traction to thrive. There's only one company that has managed to make this approach work.

Enter Google TV

Google announced their Android based connected TV platform in the Google I|O conference at 2010, two years ago. They soon after announced the two first generation devices, Logitech Revue and Sony's Google TV.

Google TV did not get the best start after launch. Sales weren't good, old school media companies panicked and started blocking Google TV devices from viewing their services. The first devices didn't sell well and weren't that well received ending into Logitech abandoning the platform, for now.

Let's face it. The Revue was a sub-par device that should never been released. The Sony boxes were marginally better but still pretty far from what the product should be.

Google TV will be the one

Even after acknowledging the fact the the current Google TV devices aren't very good, in fact I'd not recommend these devices to my friends, they are good enough that the potential of the platform is clearly visible.

Android platform is solid. Google has build and improved it for years already. The latest generation of Android smartphones are showing what the platform can do when given the right hardware.

Not only is the Google TV running the best mobile operating system out there but it is also Open Source. While it being open source doesn't matter to consumers at all it does matter to device manufacturers. Google TV will be a platform that will unify multiple manufacturers behind a single connected TV standard.

It is already happening although slowly. LG's Google TV is launching very soon and Vizio's Google TV boxes are going to be available some time later this year.

The platform potential and the multi-manufacturer ecosystem is a strong sign that Google TV will be the platform that will rise to dominate the market. Even after the slow start, sub-par initial devices and all the negative doom and gloom I have a strong belief for the platform future. In fact, I've bet my professional career partially to the platform success.


It's all about apps but not the same way as it is with tabs and phones. All the apps running on a smartphone don't need to run on TVs. TV is a different device. In fact, I think that 95% of the smartphone apps should not be ported to the TV. They simply would be useless.

A case in point Twitter for Google TV (yes we do actually have an official Twitter client for Google TV but we don't have one that adapts to tablets properly). This app has an average 2.0 rating in the Google Play. Why? Is it really that bad app? Well yes and no. The app as just an app is certainly better than the 2.0 would let you think. But by far the biggest reason for the bad rating is that this app is useless. There is no need for a Twitter client for TV.

Anyone with a Google TV has a smartphone and or a tablet. Any twitter client is better on a smartphone than it is on a TV. People don't want these apps on their TV as it doesn't add any value to their entertainment.

So, don't jump into migrating your app to the Google TV before first thinking about the benefits. That time could be better used by doing other improvements to your app.

In a followup article I'll talk about app design for TV. What people expect and what do they actually want to see.