No company has quite yet figured out how to take control of the living room. From the Apple TV to various initiatives from Microsoft, the battle for the living room is littered with lukewarm successes at best. Google TV is the latest big fish to toss their hat in the ring, though they’re already experiencing difficulties as major television networks are blocking Google TV from adding shows to the company’s online selection of video content. Google TV is trying to win over users by providing a comprehensive video watching experience that will give users the ability to seamlessly watch Television shows and online web content directly on their HDTVs.
The problem with Google’s initiative, however, is that it unnecessarily complicates an experience that thrives on being simple. Speaking recently at the NewTeeVee Live conference, Peter Merholz explained that when it comes to TV watching, keeping things simple is paramount. “People want the same media experience they’ve always had. Not everybody wants the latest whizzy, super complicated set of features and functions,” Merholz explained.
“People engage with media to change modes,” he said. They may want to be informed, kill time, be productive, focused, bond with others, or relaxed. “People have these predictable rhythms,” said Merholz, telling the NewTeeVee Live audience that “TV programmers are smarter than you. They understand that people want something different at different times of day.” With Netflix, TiVo, Apple TV and other services, he said, “all I have are lists.”
Consumers plop down in front of their TV’s and want to be entertained. The last thing they want to do is go on a scavenger hunt looking for a show somewhere in the ether. TV viewing is a completely different experience from web surfing, and while millions of users watch TV on the web, porting a web-like interface and experience over to the TV just doesn’t translate.
TV watching is by and large a passive experience. “Entertain me!” couch potatoes shout. Browsing the web is naturally a more immersive and active experience where users are of the mind, “I’ll find and control my own entertainment!”