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What Would You Want From a Google Set-Top Box?

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Google (s GOOG) has partnered with Sony (s SNE), Intel (s INTC) and Logitech (s LOGI) to develop a yet-unannounced product called Google TV, according to an article by New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton. Google TV will be based on Android, according to Bilton, and could come in the form of a dedicated set-top box or a software platform that could be deployed on Internet-connected TVs and similar devices, directly competing with solutions from Vudu (s WMT), DivX (s DIVX) and Boxee.

Details about Google TV are still scarce, as Bilton dind’t get any of the companies involved to go on the record. However, it looks like Google TV will be open to third-party app developers in much the same way the company’s Android operating system is today. From the article:

“The companies appear to be hiring for Android-related jobs. Intel, for example, has listed jobs for senior application engineers with Android programming experience who can help extend Intel’s technology ‘from PC screen to mobile screen and TV screen.'”

Google TV will apparently be based on Intel’s Atom processor, and the interface will essentially be based on a version of Chrome, which should open the door for web app developers as well as content platforms to get a foothold on the product. In fact, Bilton reports that a prototype set-top box built by Google is capable of playing back content from — a feature that could cause for some tension within the industry, as Hulu’s owners in the past have tried to block similar technology from Boxee.

Speculations about an Android-based TV product most recently surfaced when the Wall Street Journal reported that Google teamed up with DISH to test a new, Android-like software on the satellite provider’s set-top box. It’s unclear, however, if the two products are related.

Still, given the fact that many indicators point to Google gearing up for a TV platform launch, we’re interested to hear from you: What would you like to see on Google TV? Are there any specific Android apps that you’d think would work really well on the big screen? Anything missing from the Boxee Box that only Google could deliver? Or do you want to keep Google out of your living room altogether? Let us know in the comments!

Related content on GigaOm Pro: With TV Apps, Over-the-Top Video Gets New Backers (subscription required)

30 Responses to “What Would You Want From a Google Set-Top Box?”

  1. I absolutely don’t want, need, or have space for another box in the vecinity of my TV. I currently have three cable set top boxes, two DVD players, two stereo receivers, and two VCR’s hooked up to the various tv’s in my house. I can’t deal with another…nor would I care to devote two days to figuring out how to make a new box work nicely with all the other stuff I already have.

    Google would have to give this to me for free. Even then, I’d make no warranties that I’d hook the thing up.

  2. NinJustin

    Honestly I want them to one-up XBMC. I don’t use cable I use antenna and boxee and xbmc. If Google TV can some how magically get all the online streams to work correctly I’m in, as long as the can keep up the aesthetics of xbmc.

  3. Hi,

    They track every website you use, even without cookies or registration (via i.p.) do you think they won’t want to do the same with your viewing habits.

    More likely, it’s simply a software layer in the way of and Boxee, with Intel desperate to enter the field after quite a few failed attempts; As for Sony, wouldn’t they be smarter by simply transferring the PS3 OS platform to its TV’s, though understand that would require them to be more open with SDK’s then they’ve ever been.

    Ultimately, of course, the power lies with those who own the value-chain, and that’s the cable companies who you’ll need to go to for their controlled boxes, and the likes of Amazon/iTunes, who if they were as aggressive/resourceful as Google, would beat it hands down on a product-proposition/benefit basis.

    Kind regards,

    Shakir Razak

  4. Dee Bee

    I do not want a Google set-top box. In fact, I am taking Google out of my life as much as I can. I don’t need a private big-brother watching over my private information and using it for its own means. No, thanks but no to a Google set-top box.

  5. Angry Zebra

    All this seems to be is a means of browsing the internet on my TV. There’s no mention of DVR capability, accessing cable or broadcast channels, or even content partnerships to deliver audio or video. Why not just keep hooking up my existing PC to my TV? I’m not seeing any value proposition here.

    What would I like from a media center that I don’t see in this unattributed article? I’d like to browse my existing content on my home network and record HD content to that network. Having streaming partnerships with content providers would be a big plus, but I don’t want to go through a web browser for that. I would much prefer a solution like Netflix on my PS3, albeit with a better interface.

    I have a 1080P TV. I don’t want to see 320 x 240 or even 640 x 480 content blown up on that set with ads around the borders. I’m not seeing how what Google TV is rumored to be gives me what I want.

  6. Chris K

    The problem with cable set top boxes for me was that they were slow. The TV guide was slow and so the video on demand stuff.

    Basically I’d want a set top box done by Apple and Tivo that worked with my cable or satellite company and something like iTunes and Netflix.

  7. Get rid of the settop box.

    I hate settop boxes. Several of my TVs have no place to put a settop box. It is forcing me to use expensive HDMI extenders.

    The FCC broadband plan includes a box in the basement that converts cable to Ethernet. That’s the way to go. A lot of the newer HDTVs now have Ethernet jacks.

    Cable encryption sucks! I have reduced the number of TVs in my house from 6 to 2 because of settop box issues. I am very close to canceling my cable subscription and going Internet only.

  8. Rob Martin

    Call me old-fashioned, but I’d like a box that gives me cable channels, and lets me pay for them. Oh, yeah, one at a time, by the hour, day, week, or month. Its called “ala carte”.

    You’d think, if Dish could do DishPix (“Any” 10 channels for $10) 12 years ago, and the C-Band resellers could do it then, that Google, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon could do offer such a service today.

    Oh sure, there would be winners and losers, and the average bill would probably go up – but the consumers would be happy paying more, now watching only the channels they want, not those chosen for them.

  9. While time shifting devices like Tivo are good, the next step is video in the cloud. Tivo’s streaming options are pretty amazing. Not only thousands of movies from Netflix but hundred of web shows like NY Times reviews, Diggnation, Buzz Out Loud, The Guild, etc. all available on demand. Roku is doing something similar with their Channel Store.

    Google TV should be all about the apps. Shows could have a different app that let’s me know when a new episode is ready to stream. These could be free, paid for or subscription. While most people do not want the internet on their TV, apps would provide for those that want it. Music apps for Pandora or Lala would be good. Apps for Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc. could be there if people want them. A lot of this is available on Tivo but it is not easy to use or that elegant.

    Hopefully Google will be able to realize Tivo’s potential with personalized video ads. I don’t hate commercials, I just hate commercials I’m not interested in. If I could watch 25 minutes of quality TV for free with 5 minutes of commercials I was interested in, it would be good for me (free tv), good for advertisers (they show their commercials to people who are actually interested) and good for Google and content producers (they can charge more for personalized commercial placements).

  10. Google should make it a total replacement for the cable TV box. Subsidize it to the ISP’s that don’t have TV in their revenues.

    À la carte all the way. I am not sure how Google should deal with live content like the news and sports.

    Create a smart peer to peer grid so all the Google TV’s can download from each other prioritizing the download from the closest IP address to yours. (Similar to Bit torrent but the bits of the video are not randomly sent) This way the the Google TV’s are keeping the traffic within the ISP’s own networks reducing the costs for the ISP.

    RSS automatically downloads the latest TV show to the Google TV and the oldest watched show get deleted unless specified.

    Give the TV studios the tools of how many ads can be placed when and where in a show. The studios will find out a good balance of how much is too much or too little. The studios will have real time data to use. It would also be able to stop ads in some or all sections of the video.

    Ads would be targeted like adwords by location, time, price, budget, popularity, individual shows and demographic. This way Darwinism would come into play for ads and TV shows. Have a choice not to see any ads and would be the going rate of how much the ads would cost.

    Be able to create your own channel and share with other like minded people.

    Skype but to be able to automatically show your status with Do Not Disturb when watching TV. If a call does come in the Google TV would pause what you were watch and have the choice of answering or rejecting the call.

    This idea is a little creepy but will say it anyway. Motion detection when you are watching shows and ads. Too much movement would show restlessness and disinterest.

  11. What would I want to see on “Google TV?” Content! ORIGINAL content! Google is an aggregator. Send me an email when they actually create some content – you know, original screenplays, music, comedy, … – screw gizmos and features and gadgets and maps and Google Earth and games!

  12. Glen Thompson

    I want a DVR that can use storage on my network in addition to its internal storage. It needs to have multiple tuners and handle switched digital video from the cable company. Streaming content from all the usual sources. It should stream content to other boxes in the house.

  13. hortron

    I just want the set top box to be an Internet TV tuner with a Wii-sized foot print.
    It’s gotta look good on a 20″ CRT TV.

    OK, I have an idea: integrate the box with an ATSC tuner and let the owner plug it into an monitor rather than a full blown HDTV, with the aforementioned quick startup time.

  14. My initial impression is that Google TV is nto teevee at all, but simply a way to frame a problem for the masses. Step two is likely what is more interesting — a product that combines media into streams of communication sort of like a Wave TV Guide.

    Some of these ideas are actually shared in what we are working on for the education market. In this past week our model was brought down to a similar problem-solution level. The cool stuff is still out there though.

  15. Every feature that TiVo has.
    Ability to interconnect boxes in a household. (with gigabit ethernet and wireless)
    Ability push content from a any device to the box.
    QWERTY keyboard in the remote, like the new TiVo remotes.
    Obviously better search than TiVo, which is really only constrained by not having a keyboard.
    Storage. Storage. Storage.
    RSS functionality like Miro
    Torrent Functionality

  16. What would I want the Google box to do ?

    It needs to do a few things for me as a customer..but it should also trigger some new thinking at Google. A box that is ONLY meant to drive more traffic to Google properties is a failure. Google needs to think out-of-the-box literally to create a box that people would love to have – and not only because they get their daily dose of Google properties from it. Apart from that, if Sony and Intel are in bed with Google, then the box will be a compromise of interests at best and a tragedy otherwise.

    Nevertheless, if I could spec it, this is what it would look like.

    Firstly, it would need to be as easy to use as a normal TV / STB. So it should not be a PC in a different casing, combined with a QWERTY keyboard that looks like a remote.

    Next, it should behave like a normal box does – consuming as-little-as-needed power and only when it is ON. It shouldn’t need a fan.

    Next, it shouldn’t crash. So spare me the BSOD, or even worse, those BIOS errors.

    Next, it needs to benefit economically from Moore’s law – get cheaper over time. Note that Intel CPUs typically get more powerful, but hardly any cheaper.

    It should start up in less than 5 seconds, pipe my preferred content with no impeding ads, and from all sources I like – cable, antenna, satellite apart from my personal content on all my devices and all internet services of my preference.

    It should not throw up a messages such as “you need to install foobar ver x.y to view this content. Click OK to install. Click OK to trust this software. Click OK to search on Google what this error message means”.

    It should do Flash.

    It should do Skype.

    It should not monitor my usage.

    Alternately, the parents of this box might want to consider to do a much smaller subset of my wish-list, but do it really well.

  17. thatnerdinthecorner

    I think what I would like to see is a radically different UI that bridges the usability gap seen in existing solutions for bringing the internet to the tv. Lets face it… the average TV remote is completely useless for browsing the web content on TV. Specifically I think I would like to see a voice + gesture recognition type interface like in microsoft’s project natal.

  18. Chris M

    A product like Google TV could effectively span the gap between current set-ups and the inevitable fully-web-enabled TV. I’m really most excited about the potential for a truly intuitive media server GUI with powerful search/web surfing capabilities.

    This is even bigger news when considered along with Google’s plans to become in ISP in selected areas. Google ISP + Google TV would enable Google to offer fully integrated Web/WebTV services. Signing up for the ISP service could get you a free (or discounted) Google TV, much like how cable companies lend out the cable set-top box. Just a thought.

  19. I would like it to be easy to use and a one-stop destination. Ideally, they hook up with TV Guide so you only have to click on a program and it will record it for you and save it for your later viewing. That and enable you to subscribe to all new episodes of a series you like. All that and surfing the net. AND provide it over the internet so we don’t have to subscribe to cable or satellite TV.

    Yeah, yeah, I know I’m dreaming.

    • Jonathan

      All you have to say is: Include all DVR functionality with a Web-Browser. We need some sort of integration with a Home Media Server. So I can store all of my music, pictures, and movies/DVD/Blu-Ray RIPs onto one set-top box. Most Importantly!! IT NEEDS TO HAVE A COOL, SLICK, VISUALLY STIMULATING USER INTERFACE!! With all of my DVD meta-data, Box images and backdrops!!

  20. Seems to me that Google Earth would be a must. Besides streaming web content, it would need to be able to stream media files from your computer, and if so, what media player would it utilize? If they really want to sell some players, they need to take Apple TV and put everything into it that everybody who has bought one is PO’d that they don’t have. This would also send Apple scurrying to update their current firmware.