Google TV vs Apple TV vs Boxee vs YouView

internet television
How will the internet change the way we watch TV?

Online TV is here, and if it can deliver what it's promising, it looks like it may make the TV aerial a thing of the past, not to mention leaving other casualties including Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs at the wayside.

Soon we won't just be watching TV passively, we'll be interacting with it, searching for our favourite content among the millions of offerings on TV and film-streaming services including YouTube, iPlayer and paid-for facilities.

Those searches will inform our television about what we like, enabling it to highlight other programmes and services wemight be interested in.

But it's not just TV and film that will change with the expansion of Google TV, Apple TV and newer startups, such as Boxee. Soon, internet-enabled TVs will become the hubs of our lives.

sony google tv

Our PCs will live in the study while we listen to and browse our music collections and music streaming services using the TV remote, flick through photo albums and share them with friends during ad breaks, or check up on Facebook and Twitter from the sofa. Our TVs will be able to pull content from our laptops, PCs and phones wirelessly, and display it in high definition.

It's an exciting time and the future is rosy, except for one problem: not everyone is playing ball. Already, competing factions are signing up for exclusivity deals, effectively freezing their content out of other services.

Then there's the existing television industry to deal with, especially the more vocal companies such as BSkyB. The move to internet-streamed TV is a major shift in the way television broadcasters and advertisers are used to working, and there's some strong resistance to this change already.

It's not surprising – companies are going to feel threatened if their subscription models suddenly have to compete with cheaper or free offerings with access to lots of searchable content.

Perhaps more importantly, the biggest obstacle internet TV has to overcome is that it hasn't really penetrated into the consciousness of the masses yet.

James McQuivey, Forrester's principal analyst on consumer products, thinks he knows why. "There is nothing exciting about web-integrated TV," he explains. "The idea means nothing to consumers." If that's the case, how do you get less tech-literate consumers excited?

"What is exciting is more content options – more ways to engage the content they already love," explains McQuivey, "and the internet happens to be the best way to achieve that – far better than what cable and satellite companies can do on their own using their existing set-top boxes."

app store

So who is likely to become the brand that brings internet-enabled TV to the masses? McQuivey thinks it lies in offering genuinely new services without changing the way people already watch TV. "The names trying to get into the TV ecosystem are impressive, but so far only Google has really proposed something new," he says.

"Others, like Apple with its Apple TV, and Boxee, are only providing a new device to add to your TV. You have to choose to watch it – it can't enhance what you're already doing with your television.

"Google TV, on the other hand, is designed to act as your new program guide. It will be the easiest way to find shows that you want to watch, and the only way to go deeper into those programmes with apps or web-based content that complements what you already want to do with the TV.

"In this business, if you think you're trying to fix TV, you're missing the point. You're trying to make TV better. Only Google appears to understand that."

Samsung appears to have reached a similar conclusion. Like Google, it seems to understand that people don't want change; they want what they've got now, with extras. Smart TVs are just that – televisions with web functionality built-in via an apps menu, so any company can provide smart TV users with access to their services, with no need for a set-top box.

samsung internet tv

We spoke to Samsung's TV product manager, Darren Peterson, who is excited about the future of the company's web-app assisted product. "

Samsung launched the first Smart TVs back in 2008. What you are seeing on the market now has been years in the making," he explains. "TV is the last mass consumer electronics device to be plugged into the web. Just look at how that's changed the consumer experience with computers and mobile phones. As TVs become smarter and more connected, the way people navigate their way through TV content and interact with it will change dramatically."