Interactive TV has been a phrase used to describe a lot of new technologies from TIVO to Sling Box. Two of the latest technologies that allow you to get more from your TV than mere channel hopping are Google TV and Internet Ready TV. Both mean hooking up a TV to broadband internet and getting material from the internet on your TV screen but what are the differences and are either worth the investment?
Google TV offers full internet access on your TV. There are only two ways to get it at the moment. One is to install the Logitech 'Revue' between a cable or satellite box and the TV. If you don't have cable or satellite it won't work. The other is to buy a Sony blu-ray player with the hardware for Google TV built in. Both of these systems offer controllers with QWERTY keyboards. The Logitech Revue offers a full size keyboard, the Sony system uses a mini keyboard.
If these ways of getting the internet on your TV seem strange, it is because cable and satellite corporations have strongly resisted Google in the past and this is a compromise. You can get the service now but you can't abandon cable or satellite easily.
The critics have not been too enthusiastic about Google TV. Most say it is not ready for primetime, with a clunky interface and too many delays and glitches. People like Steve Jobs of Apple think Google TV has nothing to offer and has no future. So should it be written off? It is way too early for that. Many new technologies struggle at the beginner as problems emerge and are gradually solved. There has also been a steady uptake of the service and many people like the extra choice it can bring to the big screen HDTVs they have invested in.
Internet Ready TV certainly does not offer full access to the web on your TV, despite the name. What it does offer is a lot of services that are internet based and that will appeal to TV viewers. The most important of these is streaming video and music from services like Amazon and Netflix.
You can also get access to thousands of sites with news, travel, shopping and weather reports available. Yahoo TV widgets is probably the best service and is available on most Internet Ready TVs. It gives access to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, amongst other things.
How do you get Internet Ready TV?
It could hardly be simpler. Most of the high end, bigger TV's being sold this year are Internet Ready models. Connect the TV to your broadband internet by WIFi or Ethernet cable and the service is ready.
Is there a drawback to Internet Ready TV and Google TV?
Some civil liberties groups point out that all the information on user's habits is available to be collected by agencies and companies of all kinds. This is more likely to be companies wanting to target advertising and products rather than shadowy government agencies. For privacy minded individuals it might still be a concern.