These days it seems like just about every tech behemoth is throwing cash into developing systems for TVs. Google TV, Apple TV, Opera TV and Ubuntu TV have all been showing off their systems at trade fairs like CES. So far, Apple and Google seem to be the most serious contenders, although Opera and Ubuntu both have interesting ideas. Television remains the final fronteir for many of these companies, having already developed technology for phones and computers. Who's the best at the big set? Read on to find out..
One of the benefits to Google TV is the fact that YouTube is deeply integrated into the system, along with a completely revamped interface that allows you to easily search through clips. Unlike Ubuntu, Google TV has a full browser. A number of apps by the likes of Nascar, Netflix, Pandora, CNBC and Redux have already been created, giving Google TV a leg up in the apps department. Additionally, the search function looks brilliant: simply type in what you're looking for– "Spaceballs" or "CNN" – and you'll be offered a range of results including those pulled from Netflix, YouTube, HBO and / or broadcast TV. Add in a feature which allows you to see all the photos you've uploaded to your Google+ account, the ability to use your smartphone as a remote control and Android Market compatibility and you've got a great system. Google TV is already available on select Sony TVs or as a WiFi accessory to your HDTV (must have an HDMI port) from $90 to around $220. Shut up and take our money already!
Ubuntu still has no manufacturer on their side and their TV system is, right now, more of a concept than something ready for wide release. Ubuntu integrates broadcast television, online streamiung content and web apps in their TV system. You can search for millions of TV shows streamed over the web on demand, much like with Google TV. Ubuntu also promises a "one remote" solution but, at this point, they're not as far along as their competitors.
Like Google TV, you can control Apple TV using your smartphone. Obviously, the service syncs with your iTunes purchases so you can watch purchased or rented content on your TV. It also syncs with your music, photos and basically anything else you've synched to the iCloud. One very cool and unique feature of Apple TV is something called AirPlay mirroring, which is the ability to instantly stream whatever you're listening to or watching on your iPhone, iPad or iPod with the Apple TV dock. Apple TV also syncs with Flickr, Vimeo and YouTube but doesn't offer a developer's ecosystem for more apps or any kind of synchronization with Apple's App Store. That said, the product is available for just $99 and works with any TV with an HDMI port.
Opera TV, like Ubuntu TV, appears to be in its beginning stages of development. It looks like the Opera TV store has already secured apps from a number of big names like Facebook and Vimeo. Other than that, though, it looks like the company is still soliciting contributions from app developers since they launched their App Store concept in September. We'll have to wait and see how this one pans out..
While Google TV seems to offer the most developed ecosystem of the lot, Apple TV ain't so far behind, although it still lacks its own native browser. That said, Apple's AirPlay Mirroring feature is quite impressive. Google TV is the only system that offers a search function that works across the Internet and broadcast TV channels, which I think it would be incredibly useful. It will be interesting to see how things pan out for Opera TV and Ubuntu TV but it is certainly promising that they're both courting developers. TV represents one of the final frontiers for companies like Google and Apple and could offer them tons more money in advertising and content revenue. Who do you think will win the war over our televisions?