Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sony Internet Television - with Google TV

In our fair, vast country of India today, the television set (or the “Idiot box” as fondly termed by some) is probably as common as the ceiling fan or even the tube light. You might find the box in the living room, bedroom, TV room or maybe even on the loft in some cases but you should find one in almost every home in India (at least in urban areas). For those of us newbies, let’s quickly do a history lesson on Television in India.

  • 1959 - India starts experimenting with telecasting TV signals
  • 1965 – We (our parents and grandparents, really) get to see telecasts daily
  • 1982 - We start seeing television in colour
  • 1980s - The first Indian channel, Doordarshan, is born
  • 1991 – Private and foreign broadcasters are allowed to beam television signals to Indian sets
  • 2009 - From 1 channel being viewed on 41 television sets in 1962 to 500 channels on 180 million sets; TV has come a long way in India

Today, in the second month of 2011 what are the options available to you now for viewing television in India, and what will be the options available to you in the future? Read on to find out.

Cable Television
This is the medium by which most Indians watch TV in India. At a monthly fee, a cable operator beams a variety of channels captured from satellites via dishes to your TV set through co-axial cable. This time-tested method actually worked and works well. However, in modern times with modern resolutions, people naturally demand clearer picture and sound. (We can just imagine a Cable TV subscriber calling up his cable operator and demanding that he provide 1080p HD TV)

Direct to Home (DTH)
This a medium which is quickly gaining ground in India. Using a small satellite dish which is usually mounted on the terrace, telecast feeds are directly fed via satellite to homes. A set top box provides the necessary interface and input from the roof-mounted satellite dish to the television set. DTH providers have been able to respond to the needs of the people by providing High Definition content (for a few channels natively, and upscaling a few other channels from Standard Definition) and Personal Video Recorder (PVR, or Digital Video Recorder – DVR) functionality.

IP Television
Telecom companies like BSNL and Airtel have started to offer IPTV in India. IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) uses a broadband internet connection to broadcast TV content to the television. A set top box again forms the interface between the user and the content. We believe the future (at least, a part of the future) of television lies in IPTV. This is why companies like Google have jumped onto the band wagon, releasing another open-sourced platform initiative – Google TV.

Sony Blu Ray player - with Google TV

Sony Blu-Ray connected player, with Google TV

Google TV has launched in the USA, but it is yet to gain much traction because Google has not completed the Apps Market for it, and a few other interface tweaks. These tweaks and additions are expected to be completed over the next few months, and we are hoping that Google TV will debut in India soon after that. When the world's best search engine and TV merge, there's only one thing to expect - real info-tainment. Google TV merges the Internet and television to get the best of both worlds without compromising either. Think about it – how many times have you watched a film or TV series and got into an argument about the actor’s other films, or the director or some other trivial fact? A simple web search would end the argument. With Google TV, you could do that side-by-side.

Web browsing on your Television

Logitech Revue (Google TV) - with keyboard remote

Logitech Revue with Google TV

Google TV offers quick access to the Internet at a touch of a few buttons. Many websites are now being customized for television viewing so you don't have to open up your pc the next time you want to check email or check your friend's Facebook or twitter status. Or you can even do both - watch TV while you are perusing the latest info from your favourite website – The Indian Geek.

Apps for your phone, now apps for your TV
If you have used apps on your phone, you will know how useful they are. Now imagine apps for your TV. You can have Netflix as an app for movies, Pandora as an app for music and you can even view your online photos using Picasa. The following YouTube video should give you an idea of what is available currently.

Almost every major television manufacturer currently has some form of a web-connected TV, with a certain level of Apps support. If you don’t want to try and find out which Apps are available for which televisions, or which manufacturers provide televisions with Apps, we would suggest that you just hold on till Google TV launches fully and properly; there are surely some Apps there to come.

When your TV becomes best friends with your smartphone

Logitech Revue Keyboard Remote (for Google TV)Sony Remote - for Google TV

Controllers for Google TV devices : Keyboard remote bundled with the Logitech Revue (left) and the unconventional remote bundled with the Sony Internet Television (right)

If you have read our App Review of Gmote, you would realize the benefits of using a smartphone as a touchscreen remote. Well Google TV will make your Android running smartphone and your TV the best of friends apart from the remote part. If you are watching an interesting trailer and you want to switch from a 3.2 inches to a 32 inch display, well then just click a button and BAM – it’s on the TV before you can finish reading this sentence.

Apart from all this, Google TV offers a personalized homepage filled with your favourite channels, personalized TV playlists as well as recording functionality. With the advent of such innovations and explosion in the television space, we can guarantee you one thing – the television is all set to invade your living room again; not as an “idiot box”, but as a “smart box” with a web connected future. So if you thought that you had no more need of a television, think again. Your television will undergo a glorious resurgence and take it’s place at the center of your life. Again.

More info:

Sony Internet TV

Logitech Revue

Google TV

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