Johan Sørensen

Why Google TV is fundamentally flawed

Yesterday at Google’s I/O event they announced Google TV. It seems that Google is starting to look more and more like the Microsoft of the 90’s; partnering up with OEM vendors to get their products in front of as many people as possible. Granted, many businesses, if not all, partner with other businesses, but the Microsoft analogy seems more fitting than ever these days.

However I think that their approach for interaction is fundamentally flawed. In fact, I think everyone, such as Boxee and Apple TV, gets it completely wrong, especially as (or rather; if) they start to “enrich” their products with things such as web browsing and apps.

The problem is that they’re all viewing the TV is an input device, meaning that you interact directly with it via some kind of remote or keyboard and mouse-like device (or worst of all; an actual keyboard and mouse). This may make sense if you think of the TV as a “some kind of PC”, or because people of recent generations have always interacted with the TV via a remote.
However, as soon as the interaction goes beyond simple things such as volume control and channel flipping it becomes extremely painful. If you’re browsing a website you’re in a world of pain, even the on-stage demos looked extremely painful to navigate (if you look beyond the amount of technical issues with remotes/keyboards dropping connections and the terrible presentations with other presenters mumbling on the mic in the background while the main presenter was talking, I’ve seen high-school presentations better than that).

The TV shouldn’t be viewed as an interactive terminal, but rather as a passive projector that receives its input from other things. Imagine instead if the remote for a storage, OS and video-decoding “media box” was an iPad(-like) tablet on which you did all the interactions and the TV simply mirrored those when you where browsing, or presented the results of such interactions, like playing a show from a playlist you just created.

By interacting with the device directly in front of you, through a touch interface, you’ll have a much more user-friendly interaction model, especially when browsing but also when browsing the content on the media box and creating playlists, viewing IMDb entries on the movie you’re about to watch (or while watching it). Need to show other people what you’re viewing? Just flip on mirroring directly to the TV, or select an item from the tablet to play on the TV. Easy, fast and much more enjoyable.

Simple interactions works fine with a simple remote, but if there’s a lot of button clicking and text input having to do it in such a detached manner from the screen is a terrible idea, and the Google TV demos was chock-full of buttons and text input.