Ideal TV: Is Google TV Complete?

Have you ever actually spent a moment to think about what would make up your Ideal TV. Over the last 20 years we have become accustomed to regularly adapting new modules to our existing TVs (VHS,DVD,Blue Ray, AV Receivers, Hard Drives etc). And now we are purchasing more TVs then ever as a new encoding protocol provides us with the absolute best image quality (e.g. DVI, HDMI, Display Port, DTV,HDTV etc) not to mention all the audio protocols. And now we can browse the web, do social networking and even play files over a local network on some of the newer LED back lit LCD TVs.

New Breed

Inevitably the era of the spinning disk is coming to an end. Blue ray and other HD disk types are now becoming a dying breed. The new realm of Solid State technology is taking over. Anything that spins causes inefficiencies in power consumption from loss of energy through heat. Sold state provides speed, robustness and a longer lifespan for HD quality video storage. Often most cable TV providers now offer a recording facility in their set top box by utilizing either solid state or tradition Hard-drive technology. Allowing you to easily record something on tv, or download a movie from itunes or amazon, even a place to store a movie rented through an online service.

Cheap Dual-core technology

Another advancement in technology which has paved the way for allot of computer technology such as the Netbook is the development of low-powered embedded processors, such as ARM and Atom. These processors have been around in our mobile devices for a while, however, recent advances into 32bit architecture and integrated graphics processing units (GPUs) have allowed us to make phones and tablets as powerful as your dual-core laptop from last year for a fraction of the cost.

What currently exists

This kind of computing power has been available before in the TV consumer market, for instance the PS2 and XBox 360 boasted multi-processor technology and high performance GPUs to render all the 3D gaming graphics. The XBox 360 also introduced another concept to the TV consumer, which was the XBMC (Xbox Media Center). XBMC provided a very usable interface on which you could navigate photos, video’s and music on your TV via USB, Ethernet or Wifi. It supported the common SAMBA file share protocol along with DLNA. It have in-build codex that supported most MPEG2 file formats.
The XBMC was then released as an open-source candidate, allowing others to create their own media center experience if they knew how to program. Out of this, two big player emerged with variants of XMBC that both offered a better UI, and some nifty features to get information about digital media on your system, like episode names, descriptions, images and one of them even downloads the theme music for any identifiable series that you may have. These two contenders are Boxee and Plex. Plex is very nice, however, it’s is not fully cross platform compatible, as it is exclusive to Apple, Android and Windows. However, Boxee is supported by many variants of Linux (including the ever more popular free operating system Ubuntu), windows, Apple and Android. Both offer wifi remotes on for android phones/tablets and Iphones/ipads. However, up until now both of these contenders had to be ran on a computer beside your tv. Boxee have released the Boxee box which is a small cube housing a small embedded pc which solely runs Boxee. Plex has just joined in on fun by teaming up with LG to provide an embedded device.
Boxee
Similarly, Google have develop the Google TV, which is an Android based platform which enables you to watch Internet TV, interface with AV receivers and set top boxes, as well as browse the web and watch media on your network. Effectively turning your TV into a PC. This is offered as a separate unit called the Logitec Reveu, or Sony also have it incorporated into some of their Bravia range and Blue-ray players.

Next we have a range of TV’s starting to support DLNA and almost all the codecs that we commonly use (DivX, MPEG). So, there are android apps such as Twonky which enables you to play your media over the network onto any DLNA compliant device in your home of your wifi. You can stream your favorite song to the TV in your room or the TV in the lounge room. Additionally in order to select which media file to send, you can browse everything on your phone in a easy alphabetical order, and if you have a large data base of digital music you can search.

Unification

Ok, so wouldn’t it be better if all these options were available in one package. Say a TV which integrates its DTV tuner and possibly even auxiliary inputs into an embedded computer built into the TV. Think about it, an Iphone is about thinner than a human finger, yet it is a computer more powerful than the P4’s we had just over a year ago. So we could easily integrate it into todays ultra thin LED back lit LCD screens. Google TV has great APP integration with the android market coming in October 2011, it has great flash and web browsing, however its Picture in picture mode doesn’t support browsing the web and watching a movie from your network. And its network player doesn’t have a fantastic network search integration, some of the video formats are a bit buggy. However Boxee and plex have hit the nail on the head with network browsing, they enable you to automatically incorporate information for each media file you have stored, in its meta tags. Their User experience is unsurpassed by Google TV.
Twonky media servers and clients enable seemingly effortless browsing of your media and control of the device you want to send the media to.

Summary

So alone all these product have their disadvantages, but if you were to combine all their advantages you would have one cost that would effectively do it all in a fun, exciting, informative and practical TV entertainment unit. I believe this is the goal for at least Google TV and potentially the others, but a unified effort would be much more fruitful.

So we know its possible, but why hasn’t it been done? Well one reason could be because of profitability. Selling you one unit and additional units that add on is much more profitable then just one unit that does it all.

What do you think?