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Why Google TV will fail, in one sentence

From Life With Google TV: My First Day Review & Impressions:

“A menu appeared asking me to enlarge a box on the screen to match my actual screen size.”

User experience FTW.

UPDATE: For a more positive view of the set-up process of the same  box, see Richard Lawler’s post.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • RichardL

    Based on actual experience with Google TV, I can say the setup user experience is very good to excellent. It might fail as a product for other reasons, but I don’t think it will fail because of the setup.

  • http://twitter.com/PeterNBiddle Peter N. Biddle

    Soooo… does this screenshot mean that iTunes will fail?


  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Richard – have you blogged your experience anywhere? I’d like to link to it.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    There’s a massive difference between a bad user experience which
    happens when something goes wrong and a bad user experience when
    something goes the way it was designed to go. Google’s is the latter.

  • http://twitter.com/klavr Tom K

    Well, considering that screenshot dates from somewhere around 3/4/08 and iTunes still hasn’t failed, no, iTunes will not fail.

  • http://twitter.com/carrvin8 carrvin8

    Just reading that review made me want to blow my head off. PAINFUL! The whole TV via web needs to get real simple real fast for it to make any mainstream progress at all.

  • Anonymous

    I think the essence of it is:

    Web on TV is like e-mail on fax machine.

    I want to get rid of TV. I want on-demand entertainment on a more usable device — a computer.

  • Anonymous

    How else would you have users handle overscan?

  • http://twitter.com/buckwilson Buck Wilson

    From what I understand, it’s overscan compensation. For tube TVs (such as DLPs) it’s a feature that’s really important, otherwise part of the UI / media will be cropped. It may be a nuisance to some, but a TV device has to support a multitude of TVs, and this is an absolute must for many users. In fact, the AppleTV doesn’t have this option, as far as I know, and it’s a pain for people who this affects: http://www.google.com/search?q=appletv+overscanI get what this post is saying, but this particular feature is a poor example of a “bad UX”.

  • http://twitter.com/drumby Sam

    Not do so themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Bad line to choose, there are so many others that show how difficult all of this is:

    For example:

    “And then it started going wrong. My wireless network wasn’t pumping out enough bandwidth for me to watch this in HD quality, causing a lot of buffering and a little “hey, maybe you should turn HD off” message to appear:
    Clicking on that button seemed to do nothing. It just wouldn’t toggle. Meanwhile, I also got a new ad showing up in the lower right corner:”

    So it’s like insult to injury… first a big 1 minute advert, then streaming problems, then a popup ad where the alert message came up!

    …search for that bit, it’s almost funny if it weren’t so commonplace and disappointing. Streaming video and TV set is hard stuff to get right with all these moving pieces and different not-exactly-cooperative players.

    Google TV isn’t going to work well in 2010, and it probably won’t work well in 2011 either. Hopefully I’m proven wrong, but I don’t think it’s going to be the case.

  • Anonymous

    It is definitely not looking like it is improving on UI but google has shown they are really good at creating partnerships for content so ultimately I can see them finding a nitch based on having the most content.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Jeff.Faria Jeff Faria

    I get that the optimal user experience is “no setup – it just runs”. If there is some way for GoogleYV to get screen size information on its own, then yes, asking the user to resize a box is a UI failure, But if there’s not (and I suspect there isn’t), then citing this as “the” reason for GoogleTV to fail is nothing more than an egocentric exercise in melodrama. (In which case, it’s no wonder this post appealed to Gruber.)

  • http://squarewheelgames.com/ SquareWheel

    I don’t see the problem, but then again I’m a geek so I’m more interested in function over form.

  • RichardL

    My notes and first impressions with the Sony Google TV box.

    Technically the screen setup thing is to set the overscan exactly right. Google TV is somewhat unusual in that it is overlaying the Google TV screen over a live HDMI signal coming from your set-top-box. The consequences of setting it wrong would not be grave. You would just end up with a border around your video. But the setup process is really quite easy to follow and get right.

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  • http://www.google.com/profiles/larry.davis LD

    Why wouldn’t there be a method for it to understand the screen size? HDMI reports the capabilities of the TV. Roku doesn’t require such a setup. Apple TV doesn’t require such a setup. My blu-ray player doesn’t require such a setup. Hell, my Mac Mini doesn’t require such a setup. So why should a Google TV set top box?

    Answer: It shouldn’t except that is was built by engineers with no regard for customer experience or taste.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/larry.davis LD

    How do other devices do it? Maybe do it like that. “overscan” means nothing to 99.999% of consumers.

  • RichardL

    Google TV is a computer. It’s basically a HTPC “lite”.

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  • Anonymous

    This is sadly not true. If you’ve worked with TVs, you will know they do all sorts of weird things, and often bleed the “true” resolution into unviewable areas.

    Your AppleTV and Blu-Ray player have UIs designed with safe areas, so the UI experience never gets too close to the edges. That’s not a problem for full-screen video, where it is OK to clip the edges, but GoogleTV can also show full screen web pages, Android applications, and so on. Your GoogleTV wants you to use all the pixels; the alternative is to never let anything but video touch them. It is as simple as that.

    Also, this step is unnecessary (and absent) on Sony TVs, where the geometry is fixed.

    (PS: GoogleTV isn’t unique here, either; look at modern first-person shooters, such as CoD4, which have a similar step to accomodate the diversity of TV panel behaviors.)

  • Anonymous

    See my response to LD for why yours might be a bit of an overreaction (and in any case, does not apply to the Sony devices).

  • http://twitter.com/Oletros Oletros

    Mac Mini didn’t had the overscan option and because of that watching it through a 37″ Samsung LCD TV was a pain in the ass.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    It is, indeed, overscan compensation – and I’ve been through the same process with a Mac mini. But that’s part of the point. What Google has done is functional, but not elegant.

    But more to the point: If this can’t be done elegantly, then not just Google TV but *any* device which attempts to do the same thing will fail.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/larry.davis LD

    So, in other words, other products handle it and Google TV does not. Got it.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/larry.davis LD

    How so? I simply hooked it up and it detected 720p or 1080p. Then again, it is a computer so I also didn’t expect it to work (even though it did). Google TV, while we all realize it is just a computer, is positioned as a set top box. Therefore it shouldn’t be significantly more difficult to set up than any other STB like a Roku or normal blu-ray player.

  • http://twitter.com/Oletros Oletros

    Because is not so simple, there is overscan even if the TV sets it as 1080p or 720p.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Something which may be pertinent to this discussion: Old Mac mini’s didn’t have HDMI ports, which meant that you had to jump through hoops with DVI->HDMI convertors and be quite fiddly with settings to get the overscan issue right. Newer ones, with HDMI ports, *may* deal with things more smartly.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/larry.davis LD

    And again, that’s fine because it’s a computer, even though that wasn’t my experience when I hooked it up. Google TV is a STB. Unless you really think it’s a good idea to tell people to put a computer on their TV which has failed in the past.

  • Anonymous

    Have you tried skipping the step? I think you’d find GoogleTV “supports” it the same way those safe-area UIs do, ie, through crippling. And it certainly supports it the way CoD4 does.

    Apple has been successful at selling products with deliberate limitations for the sake of extremely simple UIs. I think that’s your real point, one with which I cannot argue. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles full-screen applications/games without any calibration.

    I think this thread has gotten a bit melodramatic. As others who have used the device have said, GoogleTV may live or die for other reasons, but this one was barely noticeable. It is plainly obvious that GoogleTV wasn’t designed in Cupertino, but I don’t think that in itself is an indictment of the product.

  • Anonymous

    What’s the difference between connecting a laptop to your TV and run Chrome and connecting a Google TV? It seems to work the same way, mouse pointer and all, how is it something new? I guess if you run the GTV OS on a laptop it would be exactly the same, only faster.

  • kibbles

    how do i know if im having overscan problems? i have an older mini w/ DVI->HDMI plugged into a 34″ HD CRT, and my System Prefs seem to know its — the resolution options are not pixels but are TV options instead (ex: 720p).

    thats good, right?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/weezernofx Joshua Wilson

    god forbid you spend 10 seconds matching the screen. that was soo hard to do. my google tv will fail cuz i had to press up down left and right for a few screens..


    -posted via my google tv-

  • http://edoernenburg.myopenid.com/ Erik D

    If you can see the menu bar at the top of the screen then you don’t have overscan problems. On my old-ish Panasonic TV to which an old-ish Mac Mini is hooked up to, I can’t see the menu bar as it is in an overscan (unsafe) area.

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