Google TV just stepped into the limelight. The news arrived during Google's I/O conference in San Francisco today. This much-anticipated service marks yet another step by Google out of PCs and into the rest of people's lives.
Its plan is simple: Deliver the online video, features, and websites that we enjoy on our desktop screens and deliver it all to our TV screens. But history shows that connecting those two ecosystems – or at least convincing shoppers that they need such a union – is a lot harder than it sounds.
AOLTV fell flat. Microsoft Windows media players couldn't simplify the experience enough to win over many converts. Apple TV felt too tethered to your computer's iTunes account. Tivo Premier, the Kodak Theater HD Player, and Yahoo's living room integration do basically the same thing as Google TV, but never gained much traction.
Should we think that Google TV's fate will be any different?
A lot of signs point to "yes."
First, let's talk hardware. Google has teamed up with Sony to bake Google TV into television sets and Blu-ray players. Also, Logitech and Dish Network will each roll out set-top boxes. This sounds much like past efforts. But then Best Buy promised to heavily market Google TV (in its many forms) in stores nationwide. Good start.
That last name is huge for two reasons. Streaming Hulu on your TV is the next best thing to a DVR – possibly better since you can watch old programs that you didn't think to record. But perhaps more important is that Hulu has previously shut down services that delivered its videos on a TV. The Sony PS3 once allowed you to watch Hulu shows; then the Web company killed the feature. If Hulu is part of Google TV, as today's keynote suggested, it shows that Google is ready to cut interesting deals and pull in reluctant companies. That bodes well for the service as a whole.
This corporate magnetism brings us to the third hopeful sign: People love Google. There's no metric to define this, but Americans want Google to amaze them and trust that it can. Millions of people have embraced Google Search, Google Maps, Google Voice, YouTube, Blogger, Google Doodles, Google News, Google text-message searches, Android phones. What's next? Maybe Google TV.
We'll find out this fall, when the first devices go on sale.
What do you think? Share your praise and pans in the comments.