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Google TV

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/05/logitech-google-tv-box-embarrasses-apple-tv/

Hmm, not really liking the tone of this article. I much prefer articles that represent the truth of both sides, rather than (essentially) name calling. Yes, the Apple TV has many shortcomings, the number one item for me being the formats it can play (namely being that it can only play Apple’s format).  But it’s incredibly easy to use, has a remote anybody can figure out (up, down, left, right, enter, and menu), and when paired to a desktop/computer you can pump out hundreds of shows and/or movies as well as being able to access your entire music collection.  It can even play YouTube videos, and can be readily hacked to play content from Hulu.

OK, it doesn’t surf the web for videos.   Who the hell cares?   My PS3 can surf the web, and I’ve never used it for that.  Internet video?   Most internet video is not properly sized for a HDTV screen and looks like crap, while another part of it looks fine but is pirated.   Granted, you can watch Hulu or network TV site’s video, but the video has to be there. I’ve seen many things get aired on network/cable/satellite TV that never makes it to the internet, at least legally.   Regarding the support for Netflix/Amazon and a couple of the other streaming content providers, I already have multiple ways to watch them on my TV right now (Netflix especially, as they seem bound and determined to get a streaming client onto every internet-aware device).

Oh, and I don’t buy the Google’s argument that with cable/satellite I have to cater my schedule to the schedule of my favorite TV shows.  Uh, guys, there’s something called a DVR.  Been around for a long time now?  Years and years, even?  Heard about it?  Damn near comes free with every sign up?  Be it a TiVo or a box from the cable/satellite provider, no matter how you get your current TV service there’s a DVR that can handle the signal.  It’s been years since I’ve catered my schedule to a TV show.

Pulling in content from cable/satellite DVRs is all well and good, but so far all I’ve seen is support for DISH network. Oh, and sports fans, go elsewhere. Trying to watch live games and stuff over the internet can be near impossible, especially in HD. If I have to have DirecTV in addition to this device just to make sure I get the shows I’m going to watch, I’m going to be that much less likely to even buy “Google TV”.

To me, that’s been one of the other major downsides to the AppleTV, and I can’t see it changing much here: content. The Google TV video makes it seem like everything we want to watch is on the internet. Trust me, that’s just not true.  Sara and I dropped “regular” TV service for a while and watched whatever we could acquire via the iTunes Store, Netflix, the library, and the internet.  While the experience of watching the videos was much, much better (no to much less ads, easier interfaces, faster to get to content, etc.), there were several shows that we missed because they just weren’t offered, and we missed every live event.  Just try to find coverage of a live event online, and if you do try to find it at a quality that looks good full screen even on a monitor.

There was also the simple fact that if you want to stay legal, paying for your shows via iTunes/Amazon video-on-demand gets expensive, fast.  Not that I watch it, but a full season of Grey’s Anatomy costs $50.  Tack on a couple more shows, and you might as well have paid for cable/satellite.  The problem is, you are buying the shows, not just renting/streaming them.  Pay $2-$3 for a episode, and if it’s crap, well sorry, you own it.  I think if Apple/Amazon ever got a monthly subscription thing going it would be brilliant, but until then it just costs too damn much.

Watching shows via Hulu was of course much cheaper (can’t beat free), however shows often disappeared before we could get around to them.  Other places (like the network’s own site) often offered video of their shows, but at much lower quality.  Quality costs bandwidth and time, and the network also would simply prefer that you watch via cable/satellite so they’ll make more money.

Do I think the “Google TV” box is that bad?  Eh, it’s a good concept.  But at heart all it’s really just a web browser for the TV, and as such its lifeblood is the internet and what’s on it.  Time will tell for that.  The AppleTV, however, will stay useful in my house for years and years to come.  Why?  Because I can watch the movies/shows that I currently own on it, over and over again, in high quality.  It’s a digital gateway to my audio/video collection.  True, it’s not that good for current stuff (unless I wanted to buy it), but that’s why I have DirecTV.  And since I can’t see “Google TV” replacing DirecTV, I just don’t see a reason to buy it or even look forward to it.