Google TV 2.0: With apps and more, it’s finally ready for a close-up – vb

Posted on: November 16, 2011

Almost a year after its launch, Google TV owners are finally beginning to receive a major update that will dramatically improve the service with the addition of apps, a cleaner interface and more. But will the update make a dent in the many criticisms — sluggishness, and a lack of web video content, to name a few — lodged against it?

After living with the latest version of Google TV for the past few weeks, I’m happy to say that the updated service finally lives up to Google’s initial promises of unifying traditional TV with web content. It’s a massive update that makes existing Google TV devices feel completely fresh and new. But new buyers will likely want to hold off until Google announces new Google TV devices before they jump aboard.

First, a bit of history: I’ve been living with Logitech’s Revue Google TV unit since I reviewed it last year, so I’m intimately aware of the platform’s existing strengths and weaknesses. But since the update was first made available to Sony’s Google TV devices, Google sent me a Sony set-top box to check out. (Google says the update should be headed to Revue units within the next few weeks.)

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Google TV interface is that it looks nothing like the original — which, frankly, was an eyesore. Gone are the ugly text menus and complicated user interface GTV users have grown to hate, and in their stead are attractive icons and a far more streamlined experience. This time around it feels like Google actually paid attention to how people use GTV, instead of just rushing it out the door.

With the new update, Google TV is now powered by Android 3.1, which opens the door for it to support Android apps. GTV’s assortment of available apps is small at the moment, but there are already some standouts like Redux, an innovative app that sorts high-quality web video into hand-picked channels. I’ve also grown quite fond of GTVBox, a tiny barebones app that supports just about every video file format I throw at it.

Google TV isn’t the first connected TV platform to sport apps — Samsung has already made a decent business of selling apps on its TVs, and Roku offers something similar with its multiple channels — but the fact that it runs Android makes it easy for developers to bring their apps into the living room.

Google has also updated some apps of its own: The new YouTube app is a vast improvement over the previous HTML5 app (which is still accessible through the web browser), and a new “TV and Movies” app compiles content available across cable or satellite, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, and other sources. As I’ve previously written, YouTube’s upcoming original channels could be a boon Google TV owners as well.

read more at venturebeat


1 Response to "Google TV 2.0: With apps and more, it’s finally ready for a close-up – vb"

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