The new Google TV experience is set to launch this fall, built in to some TVs and as a stand-alone box for older sets. While it shares some characteristics with the recently announced Apple TV, Google TV takes a different approach, including a web browser and the ability to organize shows on the web, on your cable channels and even your DVR.
Just as your online habits revolve around a search bar, Google TV hopes to pull together all of your TV viewing into a similar search bar experience. This Google TV search bar won't just search the Internet though; it will look through your local listings and DVR recordings to help you find exactly what movie, actor, sporting event or show you're looking for.
Unlike many competitors, such as Apple TV, Google TV has a browser built in, allowing you to connect to your favorite websites and services right from your couch. In addition to the full web experience, you'll also be able to download apps, video chat with friends and family using either a built in camera or an accessory and the ability to control your TV with your phone, a keyboard or a standard remote.
When it comes to the viewing experience, you'll be able to set up Google TV to automatically record shows, customize your program guides so that you don't have to scroll through five home shopping networks to get to the stations you like and likely YouTube movie rentals. With the built-in Chrome browser, you'll also have access to Netflix and possibly even Hulu.
When you stack up what we know about Google TV with the current competition, the biggest differentiating feature is that Google TV is optimized to search everywhere for what you want, rather than making you flip between several different options to find out out if, say, a movie you want to watch is available on YouTube, Netflix or TBS.
Google TV, with its browser, apps and keyboard style remote control is at odds with the recently announced Apple TV. The Apple TV device is a $99 box that connects to your TV providing access to your locally stored content, Netflix and 99 cent iTunes HD TV show rentals. The Apple TV leaves out the big features of Google TV, and the things that made Apple's iPhone a hit, because Apple CEO Steve Jobs feels that consumers don't want a computer in their living room.
No monthly fee has been discussed for Google TV, and prices haven't been set on a box from Logitech that will make it work. Select new TVs would come equipped with the service.
For a more detailed look into the competing formats -- including Apple TV and Roku -- check out Engadget's Apple TV vs. the competition rundown.
It's still unclear who will win the war for your living room, Google TV's all searching web browsing experience or Apple TV's simple and cheap experience, but it is clear that after many attempts to change the way we watch TV, and experience $70 billion in advertising, consumers will finally have an opportunity to vote for change with their wallets.
When can you get Google TV? With a planned U.S. launch this fall, HDTVs from Sony with Google TV built in and set top boxes from Logitech are just around the corner.