It seems Google wants to compete with Apple everywhere it can. Quite some time after Apple decided to release the AppleTV (which more or less sucks if you are no iTunes maniac) Google now also wants to release a set top box you can connect to your TV. It will be Android based and contain a chrome browser for your web based needs.
The target of this box is to integrate the web into the living room. I think it will be tied heavily into Googles several services like GMail, Buzz, YouTube and what else. It most certainly will be another way for Google to collect data about your everyday life so it can benefit from it in some way (unfortunately the very fitting Google Home View Video is in German). I also don’t think it will be more successful than the AppleTV because it misses a few very important points.
1. in most „modern“ countries of the world the TV is a place primarily for video content. There is room for music, pictures and games but thats as far as it goes. I’ll take a jump here and claim that nobody wants to read mail on a TV or surf in other ways. Regular webbrowsing will most certainly fail because the content just isn’t prepared for TV. Ever connected a PC with your TV and tried to work with that from the couch? Doesn’t work, for the same reason that web browsing won’t work. The dimensions just don’t fit. And on top of that TVs are not made for text. Reading on a TV in the regular scale won’t work.
2. very few people I know would want something hooked up to the TV that can exclusively show content from the web or streamed from other devices. The future for video and music may lie in digital distribution, but it is a very long way till we get there. Until then, a device with no optical media support stands a very bad chance of succeeding for the masses. Today such a device should have an integrated Blu Ray drive.
3. there are quite some open source projects that work in getting media content on the TV and they do a pretty good job at it (take a look at XBMC and its many forks like Plex or Boxee). There is little need for a commercial project that has no former expertise and has to be seen as an experiment. I myself tried to get a good media center for quite some years now and finally got something together that I personally really like (you’ll see that in other posts in the future).
In my opinion projects of the larger companies that target only web/streaming content and on top of that only try to enlarge their user base are set to fail from the beginning. The future of TV is about the freedom of the user to choose what they want to see in their own kind of way, free from source and codec boundaries. Apple failed mainly because of the strong tieing between AppleTV and iTunes, if Google didn’t learn from that mistake they are destined to fail too and of lately they have shown quite some resistance against learning from competitors (remember the Buzz debacle a few weeks/months back). Let’s see what’s ahead.