Search, Chrome, and Amazon On Demand
What excites me most about Google TV is the Web browsing. Wherever you are in the Google TV UI, you need only hit the magnifying glass key on the keyboard to pop up a Chrome address/search bar. As you can see in the example below, Google TV Search spans your TV listings, the Web, and compatible app/widget content. The only missing piece is your own LAN. Can you search your PC and that big NAS box stuffed with media in your closet? Not yet. But according to Google, that's coming next year, too.
As for Chrome, the experience is very similar to Chrome on your PC. Considering the screen proportions, it feels a lot like surfing on a netbook, only now the netbook is no longer cramped and constraining. In fact, within a single day of use, my family had given up on our living room 12" notebook and switched completely to using the Revue. My Yahoo, Google Docs, Blogger, online banking, and everything else runs fine, so why not? It's the first time we've had a "PC" in the room that actually fit better with the family's lifestyle in that space.
Google TV lets you maintain multiple "tabs," which seem equivalent to new browser windows, and these can be opened from any application by hitting the Menu key. Simply pick New Tab from the pop-up bar to behind a new window, or pick New Incognito Tab to not leave any traces of your Web travels behind in the Tab History. The only problem with this arrangement is that you can't see your other open tabs, so navigating between them is a real pain. The only practical use I could find for them today is keeping one page open and unchanging while I went to go work on something else for a few minutes. With so much available space still available on the Google TV, this shouldn't be a hard problem to resolve.
While Google is at work making multiple tabs more user-friendly perhaps it can put bookmarks back into Google TV's Chrome. I couldn't see a way to create or otherwise use bookmarks from within the browser. This really cuts down on convenience and efficiency while browsing, and it seems like a doubly glaring omission given that Chrome can sync bookmarks across multiple devices through your Google user account. The only "bookmarks" present are those shown at the top of the Home screen, and I have yet to discover a way to manipulate these.
Last but not least, Google needed a video rental partner on this platform, and Amazon On Demand fills the niche well with its catalog of movies and TV shows. Amazon movies currently top out at $3.99, which is still less than the $5 I paid (before time and gas) on my last trip to Blockbuster. Amazon's home page widget quickly lands you back in Chrome on Amazon's site to complete your order. It's all very seamless and fast.
You probably know about the lengthy wranglings involved in just getting some full-length shows on Hulu and the new Hulu Plus service. Apparently, rather than find some new, not even creative ways to monetize shows through Google TV, the major broadcast networks are blocking some of their most popular content from playing on Google TV devices. Rather than repeat the Wall Street Journal's article on this subject, you can read it here. Interestingly, I used the Revue's Chrome Web browser to pull up NBC's site for "The Office." The full-length show featured at the top of the page would not play but other full-length episodes linked further down the page played just fine. In fact, in an odd bit of irony, NBC has its video window sized large enough to nearly fill my 720p TV. I played an episode of The Office in HD through the Revue and it looked great, with no observable dropped frames after buffering. Regardless, if NBC and the other networks are willing to give away full-length episodes for free as long as commercials come along for the ride, then why not have Android apps for the shows the networks' full lineups? Why not make a carbon copy of each show's microsite to run as a Google TV app and let it subscribe through the Queue? Surely the TV studios have learned from the disaster of the music studios...haven't they?
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William Van Winkle is a freelance editor and tech journalist who has been writing for more than 20 years. His work has appeared on Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, Tom's IT Pro, AMD, Seagate, Computer Shopper, and more. He is also an author, writing poetry, short stories, and science fiction and fantasy books.
What "appropriate adapters"? Do they exist? Whar'zat?Reply
I just hooked up my PC to my TV with an HDMI cable. That works pretty as a media center, pc, and gaming console.Reply
Hey Will, you can already do voice searches on the Revue using the Harmony app on your Android smartphone.Reply
It's found on the keyboard screen.
pinnacles don't happen in capitalistic systemsReply
Can I see this on my PC? over the net? with open-source software? Can I copy this content to watch on another machine, when I am unplugged? Can I give it away, or donate it to charity, when I am finished with it?Reply
A fool and his money are soon parted.
Good read Will. I look forward to testing out the Revue myself.Reply
"I couldn't see a way to create or otherwise use bookmarks from within the browser."Reply
I suggest pushing the dedicated bookmark button (it's a star) on the keyboard. It matches the yellow star theme that Google has used for bookmarks across many different products. (Google Maps, Chrome, Google Bookmarks, Google Docs, Google Reader, etc, etc)
Once it has lan support I might give it a try, until then I can't see it replacing a htpcReply
mtthwgrms"I couldn't see a way to create or otherwise use bookmarks from within the browser."I suggest pushing the dedicated bookmark button (it's a star) on the keyboard. It matches the yellow star theme that Google has used for bookmarks across many different products. (Google Maps, Chrome, Google Bookmarks, Google Docs, Google Reader, etc, etc)Bam! You're quite right. Somehow, I totally missed that. I just tried it: went into Google Docs, hit the star button, told the pop-up to make the link into a bookmark, and there it is in my Bookmarks section. (Note also that the pop-up gives you the option to send the page to your Queue rather than the Bookmarks.) That said, I think the thing that threw me was the bookmarks being separated from the main Chrome UI. Perhaps it would be more intuitive if there was a small icon in the corner of Chrome that spawned a fly-out bookmarks menu? Food for thought. Still...my bad, and thank you for the correction, mtthwgrms.Reply
"I couldn't see a way to create or otherwise use bookmarks from within the browser. "Reply
Have you tried using the keyboard shortcuts from the PC browser? (I don't know if that works, but people are saying most of the keyboard shortcuts are the same)
"but Google can't let the same riotous sprawl hit living rooms that we've seen on its smartphone marketplace"
Its called 'choice' - if you want someone else to make the choices for you, you could always get Apple TV ;)
"Perhaps this is why Google is waiting until next year to open up its TV app store and broaden its functionality."
No, here is why: Each version of Android has certain compatibility definitions manufacturers must follow if they want to be considered a fully compliant Android device.
They don't have to - but then they don't get access to the proprietary Google apps, like the market)
So, amusingly enough, according to Googles own guidelines, Google TV is not a compliant Android device (for instance, version 2.1 of Android requires the device to have GPS - obviously Google TV doesn't have a GPS nor need one) - so instead of giving themselves permission to break the rules (and risk lawsuits and angry manufacturers) they adhered to the rules and didn't add the market.
Now the next version of Android is very close, and there they can make sure to phrase the new rules for requirements in such a way that Google TV will be compliant. And since the new rules apply to everybody, nobody need get upset.