Logitech Revue review part 2: What’s next?

I have already posted a review of the Logitech Revue, one of the first implementations of the Google TV platform.  That review was mainly on the product overall, from an end-user perspective.  As an avid Android fan, I thought I would talk about the Revue from a developer standpoint.

I think the Google TV platform has a lot of potential.  Here are a few things that I would like to see:

More Intuitive Interface

Apple TV this is not.  Whereas the Apple TV interface is simple and intuitive, the Google TV main menu feels like a mess.

Also, in typical Android fashion, user consistentcy is a mess.  The back button sometimes takes you out of apps, and sometimes takes you to the prior page.  There is a button on the keyboard to watch live TV; however, the option to do so on the main menu is buried at the bottom of the “Apps” section.  The same shortcut to a Google TV-enabled website can appear in the bookmarks section, the most visited section, and the spotlight section; it’s unclear to a user where they should go to find this content.

Google could do a lot in the area of user interface to improve the device.  I’ve seen screenshots of the new Honeycomb build; so far, these really don’t inspire confidence in terms of improving the UI.

Development approach

In the current iteration of Google TV, there is one preferred method to implement applications – Google TV-optimized web sites.  Google has published developer guidelines to help web developers create their site for this environment.  However, this will change with the upcoming release of Google TV.  The new version will continue to support TV-optimized websites, but will also support the Android Market.  This means that Google TV users will be able to download and run Google TV Android applications from their device.  In general choice is good, but I think might be better if Google pointed developers toward one platform.

I don’t yet see the large advantages to Android apps in their current format.  Right now, the Android Apps on your TV lack touch support and occupy the full screen.  To me, this doesn’t seem highly compelling over existing web sites.  Android has powerful capabilities like content providers, intents, and service providers that have potential, but I don’t see great use cases for these features on the TV platform.  To make Android apps compelling, I think Google needs to provide:

Overlay Support

To really integrate TV and the internet, I think Google needs to enable some kind of app overlay on top of the existing TV stream.  That really fulfills the promise of watching your favorite TV show and seeing Twitter reactions on the same screen.  Google currently offers this by displaying the app with the TV show in a small picture-in-picture window in the corner.  This current option provides internet or TV access on a large screen; I am arguing for integrated internet and TV access on a large screen.  To really kick that idea into high gear, Google should create a:

Channel Sensor

I’d love to see a sensor that tells the system which channel the user is on and what show the user is watching.  This could enable a twitter app that will automatically pop open a stream on the current show’s twitter hash tag.  Or, imagine having an NBA season pass app that pops up league scores, stats and comments whenever you’re watching any NBA game.  Please, Google, make this happen.

Summary

While Google TV has a lot of promise, I would like Google to really customize and optimize the Android experience for the TV platform.  It feels like Google is trying to apply a lightly-customized Honeycomb build to the TV platform, and I feel like that’s the wrong approach.  Here’s to hoping that the TV platform takes Google’s strength in information organization, search, and developer talent and with the Android platform to create something novel and unique for consuming video content.

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