Google TV: Detailed and explained
Google TV promises to revolutionise our televisions and bring the web into the living room, but what exactly is it, and what will it bring.
Now the clever among you will already know we managed to get a brief glimpse of what to expect thanks to a quick visit to the Sony stand at IFA, and in particular, the area of the stand that had a rolling demo of the new Google powered Sony Internet TV.
Here we detail and explain everything that you would want to know about Google TV before it becomes officially available.
The Google TV hardware
There will be two devices from launch. The Logitech Revue and the Sony Internet TV. The Logitech Revue is a set top box that will plug into your television just like your DVD player. The Sony Internet TV is as you might expect a TV and Google TV. While that means you won't have to put another box under your television, you will have to buy a whole new TV.
When's it available?
At the time of writing, neither Logitech or Sony have announced availability of their devices yet, however it will be before Christmas in the US, with a global roll-out launching in 2011.
Is it expensive?
No. Once you've bought the box, the service will be free. You'll only pay for the extra apps and services you buy.
Who else is making Google TV products?
Nobody else has given details that they will make set top boxes or integrate the service into their televisions, but as Google TV gathers momentum, you can expect to see it cropping up all over the place.
Why is Google doing this then?
Google makes virtually all of its money by selling advertising. The more people it can get looking at that advertising the more it can sell. If Google TV is successful that's a lot more people looking at advertising.
Will it have to be connected to the Internet?
Yes. It might sound stupid, but that's basically what Google TV offers. The combination of your laptop and your mobile phone (ie web surfing and apps) on your TV. Plug in Google TV and your TV won't be a stupid grey box in the corner of the room any more.
The Google TV software
The hardware is just the start of the Google TV experience, turn it on and you're presented with a wealth of new features and toys to play with. Here we look at what you'll get from your new Google TV set top box.
Google is famous for its search engine and therefore as you can guess, search is one of the key factors of the new Google TV offering.
Google TV will let you search all of the content on your TV, be it recorded movies or shows, the electronic programme guide, as well as the web and apps all at the same time. Think universal search on your phone - but for the web and the TV - and you've got the right idea.
While most of us (okay early adopters) have turned to using our laptops on our laps on the sofa while watching TV, Google is hoping that you'll use that massive 40-inch plus screen you've already got plonked in the corner of the room.
Running Google Chrome with support for Adobe Flash 10.1, Google TV will give you unfettered access to the web as if you were on your PC. This means that you should be able to do pretty much anything that you can do online on your computer; such as watch videos, play games, view photos and chat to your pals. Meanwhile, some of "the world's most famous websites" are being tweaked for use on TV (white text on a black screen works better than black on white for example). The small selection of websites being suped up for TV includes CNN and HBO, with other big names sure to follow soon.
You've got apps for your phone, now what about apps for your TV. While the likes of Samsung and Toshiba are already offering you apps for your box via Yahoo Widgets, Google is hoping to go one better and bring you the mother load. As of early 2011, you'll be able to access apps from Android Market on your Google TV.
That's 50,000 and counting. Until then, the service will offer a small selection of pre-loaded apps such as Netflix, Twitter, Amazon Video on Demand and Napster.
You're surfing on your phone or tablet and you see something you like. You can now "Fling" it to your TV (digitally of course), allowing everyone to see it rather than them being huddled around your phone, all at the press of a button.
If you're always losing the remote control down the back of the sofa, then the fact that you can use your mobile phone as a zapper might help.
You'll be able to use your Android handset or iPhone in place of a remote control, complete with voice control. You can even use multiple phones to control the same TV, avoiding the inevitable argument about who gets custody of the remote.
Video on demand
In the US, you'll be able to watch more than 40,000 programmes and films from Netflix ($8.99 a month) or from Amazon Video On Demand (from 99 cents). There's no news on UK services but we would expect to see something similar, possibly from Lovefilm, which has already teamed up with Sony to offer content on the manufacturer's Bravia Internet Video service.
As you might expect, the TV-friendly YouTube Leanback service has been designed to let you sit back and enjoy all your favourite YouTube content in full screen HD. It will automatically play videos from your subscriptions and you can also select categories.
With Flash support you'll be able to play web games to your hearts content, but be warned, that could mean you get addicted to games like Farmville.
Oh the horror, the pain, the anguish, the secret delight.
Google TV lets you browse the web or use an app at the same time that you're watching TV on the same screen, just like the picture-in-picture mode that lets you view two channels on some TVs. This could be handy if you want to check sports scores while you're watching a match or if you want to follow people live tweeting about a particular programme.
Just like in Chrome, Google TV comes with a customisable home screen that will pop up as soon as you turn your TV on, giving you instant access to your favourite channels, apps, podcasts and websites and allowing you to get to your favourite channels quicker.
Let's hope it doesn't remember all the channels you've been watching though (cough).
Google TV lets you create a sort-of DVR for your web content. If you want to save something to watch later then you can simply send it to your Google Queue. What's more, you can subscribe to websites, podcasts and YouTube vids.
Google TV is likely to be customisable to the cable or satellite provider that's, well, providing it. In the US that means if you are a Dish Network subscriber then you can access a selection of enhanced features such as recording a programme directly from the search bar and being able to search through all of your recordings in one go. There is no word as yet as to what other features will be available to other providers, but it does open up plenty of opportunities.
And you thought it was just TV that Google TV did? US-based Google TV users can listen to music through their TV speaker system and create their own radio station with Pandora or listen to songs from Napster. No word on what will be available for UK audiences yet.
Leaning on its own photo sharing service, Google has added Picasa support to allow you to turn your TV into a massive photo frame and bore your friends silly with holiday snapshots. If you're a Flickr user, don't worry, the Yahoo photo sharing site gets a look in too.
Google TV will automatically keep up to speed using over-the-air updates meaning that you'll get new features for free and without any hassle.
What do you think of the new offering; will you use it, what apps are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.