Google TV 2.0: Android Honeycomb. Apps. Awesome.

When Google TV arrived last year, it possessed promise and potential that was never quite realized. Now Google TV 2.0 is here, armed with apps and a new content discovery system. And the search giant thinks they've got it right this time.


Google TV still revolves around the same basic concept. It is not meant as a cable replacement, nor is it really meant to be a standalone box. It works best running on top of your existing cable hardware, serving up web vids along the way. That said, Google's increased focus on delivering actual streaming TV and Movie content through apps looks exciting.


The most immediate thing Google TV users will likely notice with the upgrade is the availability of apps. Yes, this means that more video services in the vein of Netflix will run natively on your Google TV. It means music services like Pandora will do the same. Eventually, Google hopes to have a deep library of TV-optimized apps that make the Logitech and Sony boxes more functional. For now, there will only be 20 or so apps that have proper resolution and formatting, but it's possible to run most Android apps on Google TV if you really want to. And if you're worried about figuring out which apps are designed for Google TV and which ones aren't, Google says that there will be a section of the Android marketplace which corrals all the GTV apps into one list.

Android Honeycomb

Google TV runs the Honeycomb variant of Android, which was originally designed for tablets. Google opted for Honeycomb over Ice Cream Sandwich because UI issues are less of a concern given the more controlled approach Google takes with the TV platform and Honeycomb is more battle tested than its frozen counterpart. But Google's Chris Dale expects that Google TV will run on Ice Cream Sandwich someday.



Google realizes that the first iteration of Google TV didn't provide the most meaningful search results for TV and movies and videos. So this time around, when you search for something specifically—say a TV show—it will not only tell you when it's coming on TV next, but also every other service and site it is available on. But one step further, Google has introduced a new portal called TV and Movies which focuses searches exclusively down to full TV episodes and full movies. It is working with select partners now, such as HBO, and plans to work with more. The portal is open to any video streaming services that wants to make their content database available. The advantage (and vision) here is that everything is presented in a single, consistent interface, and you won't have to launch a multiple apps to access content from multiple services.



YouTube, and web video in general, aren't exactly living-room friendly. Google TV's keepers say they've retooled YouTube to provide a better 10-foot-experience. Before, if you watched a video clip, it would stop and force you to actively load another video. In the new Google TV, another related video will automatically begin playing when the previous video finishes. It will continue to do so until you actively navigate to another video. Services such as Hulu have used this concept to success, and it's nice to see Google doing the same, especially with all the rumors swiriling around.


Google says that the Google TV 2.0 update will first hit compatible Sony devices on October 30, and that the update for the Logitech Revue will follow "shortly after." Will the Google TV update cure all that ails the platform? That remains to be seen. But it's evident that Google has listened to the gripes of those using Google TV devices and have at least made an effort to improve it. [Google]



Serious question from somebody who's never owned a Google TV or an Apple TV:

Does this do anything useful that I can't already do by using my wireless HDMI connection to mirror my computer on my TV? I've been looking for a reason to buy one of these, but every time I look, I'm completely underwhelmed.

(Note: the ability to play Angry Birds on my TV does not count as "useful" in my eyes. Between my phone and iPad I've got plenty of screen real estate for mobile apps, thanks.)

When something like this can replace my cable/DVR unit, my gaming console, my computer-to-TV link, and everything else on my entertainment center then I'd be really excited by it. Until then, it just seems like more electronic clutter for no real payoff. And yes, I realize that the byzantine network of contracts between content producers and cable providers are more to blame for the slow integration than any technology company.

I fully admit my ignorance, and am happy to be proven wrong—are these things super happy awesome win?