Video killed the radio star. The internet is killing TV as we know it. Why should you have to wait to watch a show just because some executive thinks it belongs in an 8pm time slot? Why settle for a medium that's not interactive? Why do you have to buy a DVR just to rewind or pause a show when you want? I watch more TV via my PC than I do using broadcasts or cable. In fact, I gave up on cable entirely. I'd like to drop broadcast too, and slowly networks are putting more of their content online so that I can. In the future, it should all be on the web. Or rather, TV should be just another lane on the internet's information super highway. Google seems to agree with me. Other companies have tried, and largely failed, to integrate TV and the web, but the search engine giant may have finally woken up to a central idea: don't try to provide both television and the internet, combine the two into one superior entity. GoogleTV puts all the content of the web and television in the same place. It's the same interface, the same portal, the same search bar. And they could improve the technology even further with voice commands, instant translations, and more. Check out their demo videos below to see how GoogleTV is taking shape. It's not the internet, it's not TV, it's content. And I want content.
Cable providers are experimenting with putting web browsing in their cable boxes. AppleTV seems like iTunes for your television set. Neither of these solutions takes into account that I, as a consumer, don't want a controlled access to content, I just want content. Freely accessible, unfiltered content. I'll pay for shows if I have to (Amazon, check), I'll watch commercials if that's the way to fund a show (Hulu ads, check), and I'll even sign up and register for a service if it provides me with what I want (Netflix account, check). Just give me my content the way I love it, the way it's presented on the internet. GoogleTV looks to be as close to that demand as I've seen so far.
And the Google development team seems pretty aware that being open and accessible is the only way to drag PC TV watchers like me back to our television sets. Check out this keynote address at the developers conference back in May:
If you come to my house (please don't, that would really freak me out) you'd see a laptop hooked up to my television set via a VGA cable. That's how I watch TV the majority of the time. The set is just a big screen hooked up to my PC. I can watch YouTube videos, Netflix streaming movies, and Hulu all in the same place quickly. And I can browse while I do it. That's the natural way for me to watch TV now. Hopefully GoogleTV will take my laptop, integrate it into my TV and save me the hassle of a separate cable. If they did just that, it would be worth my time and money.
But I think they're going to do much more than that. At the recent IFA Tech conference in Berlin, Google announced that GoogleTV would have a global launch in 2011. Amidst that buzz, we lost sight of two other important announcements: GoogleTV would likely include voice command technology, and Android phones are getting a translator application that converts speech in one language to audio in another.
To me these are all the same announcement: you are going to have unprecedented access to global content in the near future.
Think about it. Google already rolled out automatic English captions on YouTube. They could do the same for GoogleTV. They could take it a step further and provide automatic translations to English (and other languages) using the tech they're developing for Android phones. You could watch a Korean soap opera and have it translated (in audio, not just captions) in realtime.
Why is this exciting? Because the English speaking world generally has no freakin' clue how much amazing content is being created in other languages. Give it a few years and they could be able to watch any program from any country. Sure, it will likely be in stilted dubbing, or with captions, but they'll have access to it. If they integrate their translating technologies into GoogleTV, then I think Google will win simply based on how much new content they will be providing their core, mono-lingual, consumer base.
Oh, and voice commands for your TV? That's just awesome. My brother has a little wireless keyboard remote control he uses when browsing the web on his TV (through a PC interface). It's cool but awkward. If the voice-action controls we've recently seen for Android phones are any indication, then many of us will be able to avoid keyboards when using GoogleTV. Easier access is always a good thing.
I don't want to rest too much hope on GoogleTV's success. There's a good chance they'll go down in flames just like everyone else. But GoogleTV does have most of what I want from the future of internet and TV - mainly, making that future one in the same. Add in the chances for automatic translations, voice commands, and other emergent Google tech and things get really exciting. Improving existing content to make it globally accessible is the future. Billions of people already have television sets and watch TV regularly. If that market can be transitioned onto the internet it will drastically accelerate the rate in which our global population becomes interconnected. All it takes is for us, the consumers, to realize that dividing content into web and TV is an out-dated concept. It's a dinosaur. Demand a single openly accessible content stream and the meteor will arrive that much sooner.