For Google TV, a Sharp Turn Away From Apple TV

For Google TV, a Sharp Turn Away From Apple
As part of recent a demonstration of Google TV, Eric Schmidt said something that would probably make Steve Jobs cringe.

"Once you have Google television, you're going to be very busy," the chief executive of Google said at the IFA conference in Berlin, according to Wired. "It's going to ruin your evening."

It's not totally clear what Schmidt meant by that statement. The implication, I'm guessing, was that Google TV provides so many entertainment possibilities, users will get lost -- in a good way. Google TV, after all, is meant to be an open door to the Web, with video sites galore, Flash games and, eventually, apps from the Android Market. And it will play nicely with pay TV services, listing cable shows right alongside Web content.

Google TV's approach is the polar opposite of Apple TV, a small, inexpensive set-top box with just a handful of simple features. At $99, Apple TV is quite obviously meant to be the cheapest possible path to iTunes, with access to Netflix, YouTube and Flickr thrown in as bonus incentives. Apps, once rumored for the new device, are absent, and the device exists independently of cable.

There is a Jobs quote that perfectly illustrates the contrast between Google TV and Apple TV, which he uttered last week at Apple's fall press conference: "[Consumers] don't want a computer on their TV," Jobs said. "They have computers. They go to their wide-screen TVs for entertainment, not to have another computer."

Google understands that the vast majority of computer time is spent on the Web, and Google TV is the Web on a television. Therefore, Jobs might as well have said that consumers don't want to have their evenings ruined by a device that acts like a computer on the Web.

Both philosophies have strong and weak points. Jobs may be right that people don't want the complexities of a computer on their televisions, but he's also right that people go to their televisions for entertainment, and Apple TV could offer so much more through its connection to the Web. Google TV promises to offer many of the entertainment sources its rival does not, but loses an element of simplicity by leaving the door to the Web wide open.

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