Google updated the YouTube app for Google TV yesterday, bringing YouTube’s channel-based redesign to the living room. It also adds a ‘Discover’ tab for browsing new channels and videos to watch. The update also adds performance and navigation improvements.
Yesterday, Google TV’s Facebook page seeded that a big announcement was coming. When Peter Kafka revealed that this YouTube app was it, he concluded that it was no big deal. But as far as Google TV goes, the YouTube app is big. YouTube is the new television. It’s smart TV’s killer app. But YouTube is not exclusive to Google TV. If Google TV wants to be relevant, it has to offer the best YouTube experience around.
YouTube was redesigned around topical channels and social networks in December. 2011 was a humongous year for YouTube. It racked up over 1 trillion views. YouTube also worked on major content deals with pro sports leagues and Disney movies last year. This year, YouTube was the venue for an online campaign stop by President Obama. It’s starting to eclipse television.
So why is Google TV, the tip of the spear in Google’s march into the living room, lagging behind?
Eric Schmidt made some hefty promises about the next year of Google TV. “By the summer of 2012, the majority of televisions you see in stores will have Google TV embedded in it,” he said in December.
Right now, there’s one integrated Google TV set on the market, the Sony Internet TV, and there are two set-top boxes. It’s supposed to be the beachhead to bring Android into the living room, but only 8% of Google TV apps out there have been downloaded from Android Market. The rest came pre-installed on the device. Google TV owners aren’t using the “smart part.”
Thus far, Google TV has been plagued by performance and UI problems. It’s even missing important video content. The YouTube experience has to be first-rate, but that’s not even the platform’s biggest challenge. The hardware sucks.
Logitech stopped making its Revue Google TV set-top boxes after losing more than $100 million on them. CEO Guerrino De Luca called it a “mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature.”
But this month, Google asked the FCC for permission to test a secret, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled “entertainment device.” It sounds like the existing Google TV products are just a beta test for Google’s hardware ambitions. This year, there will be a smart TV showdown between Google’s beta and Apple’s “hobby”.
Do you have an Internet-connected TV device? Which one(s)? Is it competing with old-fashioned TV? Share your living room tech setups in the comments.