In the fall Google updated its Google TV platform to Version 3.0, touting features like its new Voice Search. This week, expect to hear about a slew of new products with the technology onboard launching at the CES show in Las Vegas.
Google recently reported on its Google TV blog that new partners added to its Google TV list include Asus, Hisense, and TCL. LG, Sony, Vizio and others will have refreshes of their set-top boxes, integrated TVs, and IPTV boxes with the latest Google TV platform on board.
Consumers that buy into these offerings also will be increasing their exposure to Google’s Knowledge Graph. The Google TV platform’s advanced voice control for changing channels or finding content of personal interest to watch (live or via Internet streaming), its new programming guide app, and its other smarts deliver results with the help of the vendor’s own Knowledge Graph, according to GIGAOM. With the Knowledge Graph, search queries run against a database of entities and relationships — it’s the search engine’s way of, as Google says, understanding “things, not strings.”
Google TV is as much about the web and apps as it is about making it easier to use existing TV services. Everything from Pandora to Amazon Instant Video to YouTube to various games and other streaming video and news services are optimized for the platform. But Internet-direct connected HDTVs, according to a report issued last week by The NPD Group, aren’t close to being leaders when it comes to the world of connected devices out there – at least not on their own.
On the heels of desktops and laptops as installed and Internet-connected devices are smart phones and tablets, with an estimated 133 million and 31.8 million screens, respectively, of the 425 million devices connected to the Internet in U.S. homes. Directly-connected HDTVs currently represent only about 16 million of these devices. When you add gaming consoles and Blue-Ray disc players to the picture, however, that brings in about another 52 million screens, NPD figures show.
That said, NPD in December also reported that HDTVs, gaming consoles, Blu-ray Disc players, and other connected devices, while offering an array of applications, ranging from Twitter to web browsing, generally have failed to resonate with people. Fewer than 15 percent of smart-TV owners, according to the report, are taking advantage of their products’ capabilities to surf the internet or shop, for instance.
John Buffone, Director, Devices, NPD Connected Intelligence, has this to say on his blog: “It’s become clear that consumers want broadband content on their TV and that it will come through an array of devices. But will this screen evolve to become a hub for applications beyond TV and video programming?
The challenge may be that too much choice is creating a complex user experience. There are six or more types of devices bringing the Internet to HDTVs: the TV itself, video game consoles, Blu-ray Disc players, streaming media set top boxes, TiVo, and a few audio/video receivers. While 15 percent of HDTV displays are connected directly to the Internet, that number increases to 29 percent of HDTVs screens due to these other devices. This is driving the availability of around two connected eco-systems on the same TV screen, leading to a confused user-experience as consumers have more than one way of accessing their favorite TV apps.”
Will You Google TV?
While Google TV hasn’t done well in its initial outings, expectations seem higher this time around. Certainly, the vendors will be out in force at CES with products they hope will catch users’ attention.
Among the first of the new devices officially launched, for example, was the Asus Qube, which accompanies HDTVs with 50GB of cloud storage space and its own Qube interface. Asus reports that the Qube displays functions via a rotating on-screen cube shape, and its remote control supports motion sensing for gaming and other applications. Customers can also control Qube with Google TV from their Android smartphones and tablets using the Mobile Remote app, available through Google Play.
LG Electronics also weighed in with seven models in five screen sizes that merge the new Google TV platform with the company’s own Smart TV technology. LG notes that the line features a Home Dashboard that streamlines access to video on-demand, content from YouTube and other apps through ”cards” that act as folders to display these items. LG says its Magic Qwerty Remote, which combines a full keyboard and point-and-click functions, also provides enhanced natural language recognition to match with Google’s voice search functionality.