Yesterday search giant Google unveiled plans for a TV service that combines the television and the web. Geeks are understandably excited, but will this be another "Apple TV" that will only appeal to hobbyists, or does it have the legs to go mainstream? On my mind, it all comes down to one thing.
The idea of trying to fuse TV and the web isn't new, and in the past hasn't been all that successful. Over the weekend I was at my daughter's house and she showed me a sneezing panda that was on YouTube on her Samsung TV. The technology worked, but it seemed clunky, kludgey and awkward, and I could have found the video much faster with my iPhone. But it worked. And the TV did a whole lotta other cool stuff too.
But it had one big flaw. A big, glaring, obvious flaw.
It needed a keyboard.
If web TV is going to take off, people are going to have to get used to a keyboard in the living room, and so far, people seem highly resistant to devoting so much space to an input device for their TV.
Now, a keyboard operated TV might seem like a good idea, after all, you're not going to lose a keyboard down the sofa cushions (if you think that's possible, stop reading this and go tidy up!). But a keyboard is a big tool, taking up a lot of space and vulnerable to dirt and spills. It's also not a particularly easy thing to use when relaxing on the couch.
What about a smaller keyboard? Well, that could work, but there's a point at which things start getting too small to use effectively. A keyboard that you're happy to compose a text message on might not be something you're happy to use to browse the web.
If the TV and web are really going to converge in any meaningful way, then people need to get used to steering their TVs with some sort of keyboard. Oh, and maybe a mouse.
Other random thoughts about Google TV:
- Clearly, this is a grab for more eyeballs to push more ads. Behind the glitz, glamor and tech, is stacks of ad revenue that Google wants to tap into.
- Privacy issues, anyone?
- Announcement of Flash support is interesting - Google and Adobe joining forces against Apple (the enemy of your enemy is your friend).
- Isn't it odd to see Sony reduced to being an OEM for Google. How times have changed.
- How long until users' ability to access illegal content draws legal fire in Google's direction?
- Are people going to pay a premium to access web content when they can do that already with a PC?
- Hasn't Apple TV already paved to road to failure for this sort of device?