Laziness. It’s the American modus operandi. What goes well with laziness? An order of television, would you like fries with that? By the last count, the American public averages about 28 hours a week watching the boobtube. That adds up to about nine years of the average American lifespan. Now as lame as it sounds, I wouldn’t mind watching about nine years of Scrubs. That’d be pretty great actually. But, what makes television so amazing is how absolutely addicting it is. How focused you are on watching it, starting at pixels changing at an ever increasing rate. If Facebook was weed, TV would be heroin. You don’t even get to pick what is on the screen, Jack Donaghy does. There’s nothing like it; not even close. And so I wonder, why did it take so long for gadgets to invade the living room?
This past week, Google and Sony released GoogleTV and earlier this month, Apple unveiled it’s new AppleTV. Talk about originality guys. These products aren’t similar at all, and neither is all that useful for the moment. But it does indicate that gadget makers are taking TV very seriously. After all, 99 percent of all Americans have at least one of them. How else will the robot overlords take over our minds?
GoogleTV, like many other Google products, is just a shot in the dark. GoogleTV integrates with your current television to give you access to the web. Imagine your TV as a huge computer monitor. You can access YouTube, Google Search, and browse the Web, all from the comfort of your couch. They even provide you with a geeky little remote with a keyboard so you can type more easily. Who other than Spock; four geeks and myself are going to use this I’m guessing no one. The big glitch with GoogleTV is that though they promised all the content on the web would be accessible, they forgot to go chat with those guys who own the content. Everybody wants money; this is something Google clearly doesn’t understand. It’s no surprise that a Hollywood guy, who I visualize as Ari Gold, visited Mountain View, shot some people up with paintballs and yelled “screw you!” No, that did not really happen. GoogleTV’s curse isn’t it easy to use interface, it’s that there is no point in being able to Google Dexter Season 5 if I can’t watch it streaming. Google may not deal with media terrorists, but I really wish they did.
AppleTV on the other hand takes a very different approach. The original AppleTV, if you’ve ever used one, was what Steve Jobs always called a “hobby.” That’s Jobsian for “it sucked.” Admittedly, the new AppleTV is selling like hotcakes, but in reality, there isn’t a lot changed about it. AppleTV can now stream Netflix content, but you have to pay for that. AppleTV doesn’t download any content–it just streams it– but you can’t watch Megavideo or other Flash streams. AppleTV is great to use, but for somebody who uses DC++ on a regular basis, it isn’t that great of an option. But there is some saving grace to AppleTV, a wildcard that seems to have been strapped in at the last second. Apple simultaneously rolled out a new technology called Airplay, which lets you push content from iPods, iPhones, iPads and your PC, all to your AppleTV instantly. Imagine you’re watching Scrubs on your iPad in Libe, as I often am. You walk home, but you want to watch on your TV. All you have to do is pick your AppleTV from the Airplay menu, and JD and Turk singing “Guy Love” will now appear on your television. Magic.
Is the TV going to change forever because of these products? Probably not. A lot of us still love to channel surf. The hardest part of owning the TV is trying to figure out how people really use it. There are geniuses at Apple and Google working on figuring out how to trick you into using their TV product, but nobody seems to be winning. Goes to show that dumb people are really hard to figure out.