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Google TV: Now faster and easier (googletv.blogspot.com)
48 points by antr on Nov 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments



I'll be the lonely voice here who says this: Google TV is the least worst option in a sea of mediocrity. I still use a Logitech Revue (conspicuously absent from the updated products list, once again) and I've yet to find any better platform. There's one simple reason for this: It goes in between a content feed (such as cable or antenna) and your tv. In that way, it can control content on my network, the streaming services, AND live tv or DVR shows. No other product that I'm aware of does that. I want one interface to control all those things. Roku doesn't do that. Apple TV doesn't do that. Hell, my Samsung "smart" tv doesn't do that either. Tivo? A pile of laggy shit, and it can't stream on my network without jumping through 1000 hoops. Also, $15 bucks a month for a program guide is highway robbery.

I'd love to not have to have a cable source for shows, but until the content producers get their heads out of their asses, I still can't watch what I want from the Netflix/Hulu combination. I also hate having to switch apps to use those, but such is life it seems.

It's FAR from ideal, but it's the most polished turd I can find. It's the only thing I know of that (barely) passes the wife test and does the things I need.


For those of us that don't feel like we need cable and only rarely watch OTA broadcasts the ability for GoogleTV to connect to cable or an antenna isn't very attractive. Roku's extensive list of additional channels, simplicity, and compactness are much more appealing.


Roku doesn't support Youtube... that was a deal breaker for me.


Roku also didn't use to support local media browsing. I know it does now - is it any good at it? (at least for video content this was one of Boxee's strengths)

Also - how is Roku in terms of a 3rd-party app ecosystem? That is another essential in my books.


It does, but not well. You'll have to resort to Plex.

Roku has a better app ecosystem than Google TV, more video channels in particular.


You can use Plex to get YouTube on Roku.


I use a Revue as well and like you said it does pass the wife test so I appreciate that. We both love the keyboard. YouTube could be a bit faster but works fine. Netflix app is the best bar-none. Puts my PS3 and XBoX versions to shame. I still long for a slightly higher powered device. HD streams from my media server seem to choke the Revue a bit using TVersity but I probably could use a different transcoder. Suggestions welcome! Maybe even a replacement device?


I'm currently thinking about switching up my mediaserver / htpc setup and I'll prolly end up getting a Synology NAS and run Plex server on it.

If you have a GoogleTv, there's an App to view plex content in the Play store.

As an added bonus, it's possible to run sickbeard / couchpotato / sabnzbd on a Synology as well, so it becomes a set and forget experience.


I prefer GTVBox to Plex:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.gtvbox.vid...

Lets me connect over cifs/nfs, which is my preferred way to connect to my Synology DS410.


When I saw that video I immediately thought of what Sussman said about Haskell a year or so ago. “Haskell is the most advanced of the obsolete programming languages!” [1] I think Google TV is the most advanced form of an obsolete medium.

I don't have a TV, and all of my friends who do rarely use theirs. Added together, I'd say I watch about an hour a fortnight of TV material. And that's mostly on my phone or computer's screen.

This might be a generation thing. With tablets and smartphones everywhere I don't feel I'm missing out. On the other hand, my father needs the constant babble of the TV. It could also be that my circles and I are outliers against the norm, but I very much doubt it.

[1] http://www.infoq.com/presentations/We-Really-Dont-Know-How-T...


It could also be that my circles and I are outliers against the norm, but I very much doubt it.

This seems likely. I personally don't know anyone who doesn't own a TV. In fact, I'm one of the rare few who doesn't have some form of cable or satellite service.


My household didn't contain a tv for 8 of the previous nine years. We ditched it after realizing we'd just turn it on in the evening an vegetate unproductively until bed time. Last year we bought a house that came with a TV and ended up purchasing a Roku for Netflix, Hulu, etc. That covers everything but live sports.


> I don't have a TV, and all of my friends who do rarely use theirs. Added together, I'd say I watch about an hour a fortnight of TV material. And that's mostly on my phone or computer's screen.

For watching sports TV is still the best option out-there. For the rest, I think you're spot on, I know it's anecdotical but I haven't watched a movie on TV for more than one year, and "entertainment" TV shows I avoid completely.


Disclaimer: I work at i.tv, makers of Nintendo TVii[0], so I have some vested interest in TV.

This is definitely a generational/demographics thing. The average person spends 4:35 a day watching live TV. This is declining, but it is compared to 46 minutes doing everything else on a TV, including watching DVDs, playing games, and DVR [1].

So while the amount of live TV being watched is declining, it still dwarfs other media consumption among the general public.

That said, I think the future is in things like Google TV or Nintendo TVii integrating with DVR or streaming video providers to provide better discovery and better interactive experience while you are actually watching something.

[0] http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-33199_7-57512253-221/nintendo-t... [1] http://nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/reports-downl...


Are you and your friends not terribly interested in sports? It's hard to catch CFB games on my tablet or PC (at least legally and with good quality, live).

This is probably the main reason my wife and I still use our TV regularly.


Ha. That's a good point. I don't really have much interest in spectator sports. Which brings another point to mind; I found following TdF on the web with all the interactive stats easily accessible very enjoyable. It's a shame there wasn't much live video coverage.

Then again, I'm not really the man to talk about sports.


I don't have TV, but I make due with sports by using a mixture of questionable streams, friends places, and sports bars.


I don't watch TV but I do use my TV quite a bit. I watch shows on Netflix, buy movies on iTunes (via Apple TV) and play games on the PS3.

As for your comment on tablets, they're best IMO when coupled with a big screen. Nothing is as cool as browsing show descriptions and reading reviews on the iPad before pressing the play button which starts playing it on the TV (via AirPlay - sadly the Apple TV's Netflix app and the iPad's Netflix app don't talk to each other so you end up streaming the content from Netflix to the iPad, then streaming it to the TV).


Out of topic but Sussman's talk just blew my mind. Thanks for this gem.


Why on earth is Google TV separate from Android?

Why is the only Google TV device available in the UK a £200 Sony box when you can get pretty capable Android Media Center Boxes for a third or even a quarter of that price? (MK802 etc.)

Why is nobody attacking this space with any gusto? Boxee, Roku, Apple TV, Google TV, YouView, Windows MCE and various no-hope proprietary platforms (Samsung - you'll never build a platform anyone wants to build on. Please give up).

Will someone sort this out? We need a decent open Smart TV ecosystem.


Why on earth is Google TV separate from Android?

I'm not sure I understand the question, GoogleTV is an application layer on top of Android that addresses the TV. Its still Android underneath and you can still build Android apps for it.

I can't answer the UK pricing model but in the US you can get the Vizio Co-Star for $99. All the OTT Boxes have come to Roku's realization that these boxes have to be under $100 so now you've got GoogleTV and Boxee at the $99 price point.

Why is nobody attacking this space with any gusto? Boxee, Roku, Apple TV, Google TV, YouView, Windows MCE and various no-hope proprietary platforms

There's a lot of folks attacking this space, most of them the CE providers themselves who don't see the need to use a 3rd party platform

Samsung - you'll never build a platform anyone wants to build on

This isn't true. I say this as someone who builds apps for these platforms this space is crazy busy. Also while it looks like it from the outside, LG/Samsung/Panasonic/Boxee's "App Platforms" are really just HTML browsers. They're not super secret propietary browser they're all pretty modern webkit implementations (Samsung's is Webkit as of 2012) and you can pretty much write a single app that runs on most of these "proprietary platforms" with very little differences between platforms. There's actually a "Smart TV Alliance" with some CE providers trying to standardize the functionality that doesn't map to CE-HTML or another spec (usually access to Hardware API's like channel changes or volume).

http://www.smarttv-alliance.org/


> Why on earth is Google TV separate from Android?

> I'm not sure I understand the question, GoogleTV is an application layer on top of Android that addresses the TV. Its still Android underneath and you can still build Android apps for it.

Then why can't I run it on any Android device with a HDMI socket? I'd have several Google TVs already if that was possible.

There's seems to be a more restricted culture around Google TV. The source code isn't available so there's no no-name boxes from small OEMs to stir up the low-end of the market. (Although you could argue that they can stick to vanilla Android but that won't help the platform reach or brand-recognition of Google TV)

I agree about the price-point but who apart from Vizio is producing a $99 box? And as I said - the only device available in the UK is the £200 ($320) Sony box.

Didn't know about the Smart TV Alliance. The only smart TV I played with was a Samsung TV about a year ago and that was sluggish and underpowered. However:

"Smart TV Alliance supported products are:

    Philips Smart TVs
    LG Smart TVs
"

That's not looking like an ecosystem. Is it likely to grow beyond those two? How about the small companies? Where are the cheap compatible set-top boxes? If you can make a half-decent Android tablet for $70 then we should be seeing one of these platforms taking off.

[Also - What does 'CE' stand for?]


> Then why can't I run it on any Android device with a HDMI socket? I'd have several Google TVs already if that was possible.

A simple answer for this is "it is compiled for x86, as the reference platform for a Google TV is an Intel CE4100" (and thereby, if you stole the software off of an existing unit, you would not be able to run it on the numerous ARM Android devices that are out there).

> There's seems to be a more restricted culture around Google TV. The source code isn't available so there's no no-name boxes from small OEMs to stir up the low-end of the market.

This, however, is the real issue underlying your complaints. As the GoogleTV at some level relies on not pissing off content providers whether directly or indirectly (if nothing else, to keep it from being used to do DHCP stripping, but it obviously goes much deeper than that), it is going to be a closed platform; that's simply the game you have to play to be in this space.


> A simple answer for this is "it is compiled for x86, as the reference platform for a Google TV is an Intel CE4100"

I thought they were switching to ARM or has that not happened yet?

> As the GoogleTV at some level relies on not pissing off content providers

Once again they hold back an entire industry to prevent piracy whilst utterly failing to do so by any measure.


> I thought they were switching to ARM or has that not happened yet?

This seems to have actually already happened (I didn't actually get any of the new hardware released after this year's Google I/O; I was mostly interested in this the prior year, when it seemed like it might be popular). You probably then actually can just run it on another device, but it would involve stealing the software off of an existing unit.


>Also - What does 'CE' stand for?

"Consumer Electronics."


Merging Google TV and the Nexus Q projects would be a good start.


I used to work for Sony in TV Product Planning and the Business Development for TV platforms in Europe.

> Why is nobody attacking this space with any gusto? Boxee, Roku, Apple TV, Google TV, YouView, Windows MCE and various no-hope proprietary platforms (Samsung - you'll never build a platform anyone wants to build on. Please give up).

It is hard. Smart isn't what people really want from TVs. They want content (games may be a exception but games consoles have that mostly covered for now). The interaction is too indirect (opposite of touchscreen) and the TV screen is shared with everyone in the room making even less suitable for interaction.

To be an interesting content platform you need real scale so Samsung should be interesting as they probably sell 20-30% (haven't been following recently) of TVs globally. If you have compelling content it makes massive sense if you have a working revenue model. If you don't have strong content I wouldn't both.

> Will someone sort this out? We need a decent open Smart TV ecosystem.

No we need (fairly) dumb TVs able to play various sorts of local and internet content streams with standardised interfaces allowing content selection on tablet devices. DLNA/UPNP has the local network side quite well covered but the TV companies fed up of their zero margin business are trying to get some revenue on the content side and it a complex massive job getting good local content available globally.


Maybe I'm abusing the term 'Smart TV' but what I mean in the short term is something fairly close to your last paragraph BUT with some way for 3rd parties to innovate on the platform.

Your argument largely consists of 'people don't want that' or 'it's the wrong format' which sounds suspiciously like how people described smart-phones pre-Apple.


Why would anyone want information services or casual games (apart from those to be played with others in the room) on the big screen rather than the phone/tablet?

In the pre-iPhone case there were lots of people wanting information services on phones (on the move especially) and people trying to provide solutions greatly limited by available technology and bandwidth prices (no wifi on phones at the time either). People were trying to read books off phones, listen to music and do many things including some apps even when the capabilities were extremely limited.

Its really not a people don't want argument but TV prolonged screen interactions don't generally fit into people's lives except in a very few narrow scenarios watching, sharing and showing content. In all these cases controlling with a smart controller and interacting offscreen really works better than indirectly manipulating a bigscreen GUI.

If we imagine a TV with unlimited computing power what would it be used for? Well it would replace games consoles. It would offer smarter ways to find content (but the availability of content is probably at least as important) and better search isn't generally a game changer in this market.


I think Boxee and Roku both have solid platforms and are very forward thinking about their respective ecosystems. The challenge is that video content producers are not there yet. Content producers are not their because adoption of these ecosystems have not yet reached critical mass.

At this point I think the entire industry vertical is more concerned with growing the pie rather than maximizing the slice taking their taking of it.

This tv ecosystem trend is happening, but right now it looks like the iOS App store in its infancy. Lots of potential. The difference was the App store rolled out to millions of existing phones at once. None of these platforms have that scale yet.


I don't get this either. GoogleTV should be more generally available as an addon to any tvconnected device qhich runs android.


Because one of the strengths of Google (that projects are done by discrete, disparate teams) is also its weakness (in that there's no cohesion between products and projects).

Thus why Google TV, Android, and the Nexus Q are all different projects that don't interoperate especially well or share a common feature set.


I've been too busy to comment lately, but I'll make this an exception since I hate this product so much. Stay away from these products unless you're developing for it.

1) I'm not sure what Google did, but with Google TV a device with 1 GB of ram is no longer more than enough. I feel that it needs double the ram to run well. Unfortunately no Google TV to my knowledge has 2 GB or more of ram. Given this, I really doubt the extra new features will work well since the hardware isn't up to par. It probably just has more reasons to lock up and freeze more often.

2) This is probable the only device where Netflix doesn't work well. Nearly every time you start Netflix, it'll fail to connect and it's pretty often when it fails to connect to Netflix when you try to play a movie. For a while even Youtube of all things didn't work well.

3) There are "apps" that are simply bookmarks to web pages.

4) None of the set top Google TV boxes come with a tuner / cable decoder, necessitating a separate box if you want to watch cable or over the air TV; which kills the entire point of it when the cable box has a better experience.

The list just goes on. This is just one really horrible set of products.

Yes, we have installed the updates as they become available.


Have you tried the Apple TV? I'd be interested how it compares as I have been quite unsatisfied with it. It's not as seamless as I'd hoped and often has the same issues you mention with Netflix (and also connection issues with iTunes).


Even Apple TV is less annoying. Roku is far from perfect and I have my gripes with it, but in my mind it's the best.

About the only thing I haven't tried is Boxee.


Boxee gave up on the Boxee Box (quite literally abandoned it and their customers) and is now doing a regular TV DVR box.


My friend had a Boxee Box and it was UNSTAAABLE. I saw it freeze up or restart way too many times. Unacceptable.


I have mixed feelings about the Boxee but it rarely freezes for me.

It's got a killer interface. Handles local video extremely well. It used to have a decent ecosystem but Boxee seem to have pivoted away from that plan.

It never had the content providers - at least in the UK. We never got Lovefilm or Netflix. BBC iPlayer didn't work for months and 4od came and went then came back.

To woo the content providers that we never got Boxee shut off the hackability and killed a growing enthusiast and developer scene.


> Handles local video extremely well.

Movies constantly buffer for me with SMB. Over Boxee Media Manager it doesn't buffer, but does take longer to initially load.


What device? I love Netflix on my Logitech Revue. Heads and shoulders above any other platform I've tried.


Both the Co-Star and Revue. The Co-Star runs better.


http://www.v-net.tv/what-is-wrong-with-connected-tv-by-the-b...

Related story although somewhat unfair in my view because it is request focussed and I know I jump around between content more on tablet/phone than on TV. Only a little bit is the sluggish UI but more that my mode of watching and my intention is different when watching on TV. I want to watch not interact.


Apple has started something interesting with the Remote App, and I hope Google TV will push this forward.

From what I'm seeing now it looks more like a VCR[1] with an Android UI, but I really believe in the tablet/tv combo. IMHO multitasking is a key to a good connected TV experience.

[1] https://developers.google.com/tv/android/docs/gtv_android_pa...


Does anyone here have thoughts/experiences with Apple TV. I think it looks like quite a simple product compared with the Google TV stuff..?


how about putting a search function for local files on home network? There's too many steps currently.




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