Yesterday it was announced the first Google TV box will hit the UK in July, in the guise of the Sony NSZ-GS7. Google TV has been delayed again and again, and the software has been plagued with problems, but what does Apple need to do to sew up the market with its own TV? These for starters…
Apple has already come to dominate the mobile, tablet, and MP3 player markets thanks to its awesome products and their unbeatable user interface, all tied to its closed ecosystem. And now it looks set to do the same with TV. But hang on… Yesterday Sony announced the first Google TV set-top box will hit the UK next month, turning any gogglebox into a smart TV.
So how can Apple convince people they need a whole new TV set, rather than just a small set-top box?
Apps, apps, apps
Google TV’s second coming has 150 apps ready to go just a few weeks before launch. According to previous reports, Apple is in talks with major studios to offer channels based on an app-like structure, though the last thing we heard was it wasn’t going too well, with Apple’s demands proving a little too diva-ish for some. Going on iTunes’ dominance over Google Play in terms of apps though, it’s a given Apple will right this before launch.
Now Google’s 150 apps will no doubt grow, and with Apple TV not expected until the end of the year, this head start should prove fruitful. TV hardware is still advancing (see Sony and Panasonic’s joint venture into OLED, announced yesterday) while mobile has tended to stagnate a little, but apps will be a crucial deciding factor for many people. What good’s a TV without a decent selection of shows to watch on it?
Apple’s wireless tech has just made its way into speakers so far, meaning you can stream tunes from your computer or mobile using iTunes. But an AirPlay-enabled TV? That could be a real game changer.
Picture it: any app you pull up on your mobile or iPad can be flicked straight to the big screen, for some dual-screen action. And then your mobile device becomes the most intuitive remote control you can imagine.
(Using iOS to navigate your TV menus will undoubtedly be far more intuitive than the remote that comes with Sony’s Google TV box, which has a trackpad on one side and a QWERTY keyboard on the other.)
It’s happening, too. Brightcove has just announced its App Cloud platform that’ll help companies make dual-screen apps, meaning fun on the iPad and the TV at the same time. (It’ll launch for Apple’s computers as well, as long as they’re running the latest OS, Mountain Lion.) Considering the number of games apps on iTunes, this could mean Apple TV will see off the Wii U while dominating the TV market. So it’s not just the Panasonics and LGs of this world who should be worried.
Apple revamped the Apple TV menu for the relaunch back in March. It doesn’t run iOS verbatim, but now has big, colourful icons for easy navigation. It’s a lot slicker than the old UI design, though one ex-Apple engineer pointed out the late Steve Jobs actually rejected the grid design five years previously.
We’re sure Apple won’t let us down on the software side of things, seeing as iOS is really the reason the iPhone rose to prominence, despite lacking 3G when it launched. Early reviews of the Sony Google TV box in the US claim the software is buggy, confusing, and not nearly as slick as it should be. In short, it sounds a little rushed, which is surprising when you consider how long ago it was Google announced it was entering the battle for your lounge.
iPlayer & Freeview
These are both a given really. Auntie’s catch-up service is still the best going, and the fact Google TV still lacks an iPlayer app is a real drawback, though one is expected soon. Freeview should also be standard, in this day and age, although Freeview HD would give it the edge.
The advantage of Google TV set-top boxes is you don’t have to buy a new set to connect online. One report claimed the Apple TV would come in 32- and 37-inch sizes, but it’ll have to offer more choice than that if it really wants to compete. It may launch with these sizes, but expect everything up to 50-inches plus to follow.
The all-important question. The Sony Google TV set-top box looks to cost around £200, but expect to pay a lot more for an entirely new TV. To be honest, if Apple pulls it off, with solid software and a great range of apps and channels, it could charge what it likes. TVs are built to last, so people will be more likely to splurge than on a new computer or a mobile. Though the closer your TV gets to being a computer, who knows how often you’ll need to replace it. One thing’s for sure: the £99 Apple TV set-top box will probably remain to mop-up the customers that can’t afford the main event TV set.
- Apple TV: Everything you need to know