Google TV: Stop Surfing, Start Searching

Google started with smarter searches. Then, with Android, it turned its attention to smart phones. Now, with Google TV, it's looking to smarten up the third and ultimate category of electronic rectangular screens. What does Google TV mean for the idiot box?

It's no surprise that Google thinks the Web is special because the Web is searchable. Indeed, the company spends enormous resources refining its algorithm to make the Internet more searchable every day. So Google would like to bring that searchability to television. And hey, while they're at it, Google would like to put the Internet on TV, too. The result is Google TV, a box, QWERTY keyboard and mouse that turns your 30-inch screen into an entertainment hub for television channels, websites via Google Chrome and apps via Google Android.

Tubes on the tube? Cool idea. The ultimate utility here probably lies beyond YouTube and BuzzFeed time sucks. Designers and artists and professionals for whom a large screen improves their productivity by orders of magnitude will benefit from a box that lets them work on Web-based projects on a 30-inch, rather than 12-inch, screen.

Google TV could make it easier to work at home, but it could also make it easier to, you know, not work. Scrolling through cable listings is, it turns out, a pretty rotten way to find what you want to watch on the telly. That's why they call it channel surfing. It's aimless, rudderless. Why not make channel searching as easy as Web searching? That's what Google TV wants to do. Type a word into the search box, and it returns TV shows, Internet pages, apps, music. That kind of innovation is simple enough for older folks to intuit and useful enough for younger kids to spend a few extra bucks.

We won't know how well the hardware/software will run until some critic takes it for a test drive. But I'm rooting for this idea to work.


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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