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Why I don’t use Smart TV web applications

The LA Times posted an article this week about the limited use web applications receive from smart TVs. I have two smart TVs and until my recent trial of the Amazon Prime service, I had only glanced at the TV application menu. I fall right in line with the majority of people that don’t use the applications.SmartTV

Here’s why.

The TV app menu has a limited selection of applications.
My TVs have 7-8 applications available. Both have YouTube. One has Netflix, the other Amazon Prime. One has Twitter. The experience is underwhelming since I’m used to a tablet or smart phone with a wide range of applications. There isn’t an app store on my TV so what I see is what I get unless they force some additional apps via the updates.

The TV app menu is slow to navigate.
It takes some time to navigate the user interface (UI) and load the applications on my TV. While the processor speed is responsible for a part of this lag, most of it is because I have to use the remote control to essentially tab through the choices; No mouse and no touch screen equals slower navigation.

The TV can be used easily as a second screen to portable devices such as tablets or laptops.
It’s not too difficult to use a TV-screen as a second screen for computing equipment these days. This gives users full access to the applications on their computing device. I know this type of hookup is a technical chore that may keep most people from doing it. But I suspect the same people that would use a TV application are the same people that would hookup the TV to a portable device. In that case, why would the limit themselves to the smaller selection of TV apps?

The service years of a TV outlasts the typical computing device.
Many people update their computing every three to four years. But TVs can last much longer than that. It doesn’t appear the TV manufacturer’s are building in a good way to update their web application menus. So they quickly become dated. This hurts usage because consumers will gravitate to their more modern computing device.

So what should TV manufacturer’s do about this? Should they stop making Smart TVs? How can they compete with streaming services like Apple TV, Slingbox, and Google TV? I think part of this answer is to make the experience of the TV closer to the experience on other computing devices. Run the application service on a variation of open source software such as Android. Get access to an app store. Don’t expect the consumers to change their behavior, but find a way to more closely mimic what the consumers already use. That sounds like a smart move.

Why I’ve gone Google

I’ve gone Google.

Going Google is for individuals too.
I’m sure by now you have noticed Google’s campaign about “going Google”. It’s primarily targeted at businesses, schools, and governments to use the Google suite of productivity applications. That target list covers groups of people well. But what about individuals? Have you stopped and thought about how much of your life is run by Google these days?

There is a reason for it, and it’s not because for the free price tag.
OK. I admit it. The hook for me to try many of Google’s products and services is because most of them are free of charge. I don’t mind the ads displayed on some of the Google services, they don’t detract from the functional use of the product. I also don’t mind that they collect information about my usage habits. Just about every interaction I have in life is tracked by marketers. Google is not alone in this practice. As a business professional, I marvel at how Google has created a business model to give much of it’s software away for free while making revenue by serving ads.

But there’s more to product usage than a free price tag. Free products are great to try. But if they don’t solve problems and add value for people then nobody will continue to use them. As I look at all the Google products that I use each week, it’s amazing to think about the breadth of value they bring to my life. They are solving problems.

A list of how I’ve gone Google and why.

Google ProductHow it helps. Problems it solves.
GmailEmail anywhere I have a connection to the internet. I use a single sign-in to pull email messages from multiple accounts (2 of them not in gmail.com domain)
Google CalendarI share calendars with my wife for family and personal activities. It's easy for me to look on the calendar to see kid's activities and other family commitments.
Google VoiceA single phone number can find me at home, office, or on the go. I have custom groups of people to define specific rules for call forwarding. I can see a complete log of phone calls and voice messages online. Oh yeah, and it supports SMS text.
Google ChromeMy internet browser of choice. A simplified interface gets rid of all the clutter that began to fill other browsers. Under the hood it's built smarter. That's more for the geek in me. Bottom line, this browser is simple and fast.
PicasaOrganize pictures. Online photo albums. Ability to share some pictures while keeping others private.
Google ReaderA single source to aggregate content from news sites and blogs that I like to follow. I don't have to visit each site to see what content is new. Its shows in one place and bolds content I have not read or acknowledged.
Google DocsProductivity software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms. It doesn't have near the features of the full MS Office. But it's ample for most of the work I do. Plus the files are accessible from anywhere I have an internet connection and shareable with others if I choose.
Google MapsResearch routes to unfamiliar destinations. Look for specific types of businesses on a map by typing a name (i.e. Chinese Food, Dry Cleaner, etc.)

Google services on my radar.
Google announced Chromebook with Chrome OS this week. Chromebook encompasses much of where computing has evolved in the past several years with availability of cloud computing. What I like most about it, is that it’s simple. The traditional PC model to computing is now complex. Maintaining operating system software and local installations of productivity software is expensive in both money and time. Chromebook promises to take that hassle out of consumer’s lives so they can focus on creating and consuming content rather than worrying about the uderlying machine.

Google TV is another service I would like to try. I haven’t purchased a device yet because I’m waiting for it to mature a little as well as gain greater adoption with content providers. The model of connecting the internet with video consumption is already here (YouTube, Hulu, etc.) and traditional media content providers must solve for that. Google is making it’s play with Google TV but I think they are after more.

Can Google stay relevant and liked by consumers?
I think about Microsoft and what that company has done for the advancement of technology and our culture. Despite what you many think about them, the Office suite is a powerful set of products that allows people to solve problems. Yet the company is often maligned in technology circles because their products are expensive and can sometimes fail. Will Google become like Microsoft? Or does the fact that consumers don’t pay for many of the products and services offered by Google change their proclivity to complain about it? Does Google fall into the “you get what you pay for” mode of thinking or will it thrive because it’s products continue to be relevant and solve consumer problems?

What do you think?

Google TV – What it’s really after

The list of networks blocking content from Google TV continues to grow. Already Viacom, Hulu, Fox, CBC, NBC, and ABC have restricted their online content from Google TV devices. But why? Revenue protection, control, and fear come to mind. But let’s face it, the way we watch video content is changing rapidly.

Live network feeds are becoming irrelevant to millennials and younger generations

With the increased popularity of the perpetual rental model (Netflix style) and streaming online (Hulu style) consumers can now choose their content and when they want to watch it. Doesn’t the story sound familiar? Ma Bell and the local telcos have already been through this and are continuing to see decreases in the number of “land line” phone subscribers. YouTube started the parade for alternative video content and the number of options continues to increase. Rather than fighting the evolution of technology and video content, the networks,cable providers, and satellite providers need to join the game to stay relevant and part of the lives of the next generation.

Blocking content is lazy

Blocking new business models is really a strategy to create a ‘stop’ while the networks can think about how to approach online content served by Google. Yet, the launch of Google TV was not a secret. It was publicized well in advance giving the networks plenty of time to consider their strategy and response. Online streaming may not command the same revenue dollar as traditional broadcasting, but strategists and executives need to get their heads together to figure out how to make it work. Blocking content is only deflecting the consumers that they need to drive the advertising dollars in the first place.

What Google is really after

Google doesn’t really care that these networks are blocking their content. They are positioning themselves for something different; control of the biggest screen in the house. Google’s target audience is the younger generation and tech savy that will be the household decision makers of tomorrow. They’ll stream content where it can be found and will take advantage of partners that will play in this space. Google (and other online streaming providers) will start to gain a percentage viewing share of the big screens. If the major networks choose not to be part of the content, they will find themselves losing market share and revenue anyways.