By Patrick Avenell
Sony Australia lit its metaphorical Olympic Flame today, announcing a special gift with purchase for its high-end Bravia TVs: the long-awaited Google TV.
Designed to be a ‘lean forward’ experience, working in tandem with the ‘lean back’ consumption on its smart TV offering, Google TV will hit the market via a new device that plugs into the TV via HDMI, and will be available free on all purchases of Bravia HX850 and HX750 TVs from this Thursday (28 June 2012).
Sony's new Internet Player with Google TV device and remote control.
Officially called Internet Player with Google TV (NSZGS7, valued at $349), the small box connects to the internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and provides the user with access to the Google Chrome browser, YouTube, the Sony Entertainment Network (including Video and Music Unlimited) and apps from Google Play, such as the popular social media sites.
The baked-in functions are all optimised for viewing on a large screen TV, as are some of the apps available from Google Play, and while the millions of other apps on the Android market are installable, there will be varying degrees of suitability.
User control is provided through the dedicated remote control, which talks to the Google TV box via Bluetooth, meaning there is no need for direct line of sight. On one side of the remote is a track pad for controlling the on-screen cursor, which also doubles as the traditional left-click button on a mouse, plus a number of shortcut keys. On the reverse is a full QWERTY keyboard. An inbuilt gyroscope means that whichever side of the remote is facing down is de-activated.
The device comes with 4GB of available storage, plus a USB port, so it is possible to store and import content for viewing on the TV screen. Google TV can also be used as a faux Apple TV unit, with in-built AirPlay meaning that movies, music and images stored on iDevices can be played back through the TV.
Sony and Google are actively encouraging developers to create dedicated apps for Google TV, which will run the Gingerbread operating system at launch. Firmware upgrades to newer operating systems can be pushed to the device, Sony Australia said.
The gift-with-purchase program on the Google TV will be supported by digital advertising, public relations, in-store displays and point-of-sale materials. Sony Australia said there are currently no concrete plans to sell Google TV as a stand-alone device, though this could change once the promotion period ends on 12 August 2012.
Pictured here is the Google TV device, both sides of the remote control and the home screen.
The use of Google TV as a gift-with-purchase for Sony Australia is a pivot away from its previous PlayStation 3 giveaways. While tremendously popular with consumers and successful in both promoting PS3 ideals (Blu-ray technology, Sony Entertainment Network and, obviously, gaming), there was a certain discontent amongst retailers with this program.
The common feedback from dealers was that Sony was giving away an eminently saleable product rather than giving sales staff the opportunity to up-sell the consumer to increase the value of the transaction. By using a product that is not for sale separately (the value price is not an RRP, stressed Sony Australia), retailers now have a genuine opportunity to promote the sale of expensive, high quality TVs without an opportunity cost.
Of course, Sony Australia could well release Google TV as a standalone purchase come the end of this promotion, but until that date, there is a genuine exclusivity to this program: if a consumer wants a immersive Google experience on their big screen TV, they can get it for free, but only by buying a top-end TV.
On the experience, specifically, Current.com.au had the opportunity to roadtest it briefly this afternoon. The Chrome browser and YouTube applications are outstanding on the big screen. Although there is some lag with the remote control's trackpad functions, and it would take a while to get used to the cramped keyboard, Google TV is overall a good experience.
My personal favourite was the picture-in-picture functionality, whereby live TV can be watched at the same time as internet browsing, Twitter tweeting or Facebook updating. This would be particularly useful during TV shows such as Q&A and The Voice.
Considering Sony Australia already offers the most comprehensive smart TV content offering, there is a question of redundancy regarding Google TV. The key difference that I could discern from my short play with the technology is that Google TV offers access to the entire world of Google, as opposed to the more fenced-in world of Sony IPTV. Google currently has innumerable products, such as Gmail, Maps, Google Plus, Picasa (and so on...), with many more undoubtedly on the way. For those that want to experience it natively on a big screen TV, this offer should prove irresistible.
The question is, however, how many of them are out there?
A look at the Google TV homescreen, which runs off the Gingerbread OS.
Sony Internet Player with Google TV (NSZGS7, valued at $349) is available free via redemption with the purchase of TVs from the Bravia HX850 and HX750 series. The promotion runs from Thursday 18 June 2012 through until Sunday 12 August 2012. Interested parties should check the official terms and conditions for full details.
Summer Olympics Details
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be staged in London from 27 July to 12 August 2012. Channel Nine and its affiliates will broadcast three channels of coverage on free to air, including 3D, and Foxtel will broadcast eight channels of content free to subscribers.