The tech space is abuzz with Google TV launching its first Internet-enabled television by Sony. This LED TV has the Google TV components built into the frame; unlike the first offering from Logitech called Revue, which is basically a box and a keyboard that can be connected to any TV via HDMI. So, what is so awesome about Google TV? To put it shortly, Google TV is a combination of a system-on-chip hardware made by Intel. Part of the Atom family that powers today's netbooks, this one-piece silicon can decode up to two 1080p HD videos simultaneously and up to 7.1 channel sound. This hardware is put to work by Google TV's software end, which is a platform based on Android, its highly popular mobile operating system. The software includes Google's own Chrome browser with Adobe's Flash support. Thanks to this, Google TV supports rendering of any website created as of today.
Sony's recently launched Google-enabled Internet TV with a bundled QWERTY remote
Logitech's box comes with a keyboard bundled with a touch-pad and media controls as well
The combination of this hardware and software is what Google claims will "make TV as awesome as possible". Developers can create apps exclusively for Google TV like they did for Android smartphones. Thus the possibilities of usage scenarios seem endless because of this. Tweet while watching your movie, stream YouTube videos, get RSS feeds, and most others things that you could do imagine doing an Internet-enabled device. But wait, don't we already have devices that do the same?
A typical Nettop PC from ASUS
Nettops; or low-powered desktop-equivalents of netbooks have been around since long. Unfortunately, they haven't received as much glamor, since they don't have one multi-billion dollar company backing them up. Many of these can do pretty much everything Google TV can; stream 1080p HD content locally stored or fetched from the Internet. They are PCs running Windows operating systems; thus allowing them to be used like actual PCs too. You can surf the web too, and not just using Chrome, but any other browser on the planet. So then what's so special about Google TV? The breadwinner is that the interface works in tandem with your cable set-top box. With a nettop, you'd have to keep switching input signal from your TV remote from (say from AV1 to HDMI1).
Observe the two HDMI ports in the above image, one 'In' and one 'Out'. The 'HDMI In' is where you connect your cable set-top box. Now, the 'HDMI Out' connects to your TV. So, Google TV acts like an intermediary between your set-top box and TV and this is what enables it to run as an overlay above your set-top box interface.
A nettop comes with a hard drive that'll let you save hundreds of gigabytes of data. But both the iterations of Google TV as of today (the Logitech Revue box or the Sony Internet TV), don't have any internal storage. If you ask Google, storage isn't necessary since you'll mostly stream content from the Internet directly or from a PC or DLNA-compatible device nearby over Wi-Fi. Google TV's app store will give you a one-stop-shop access to installing 3rd party apps that will be customized for a big screen. But a nettop can run Windows and Linux, thus opening the possibility of running any desktop application that you wish (as long as the low-powered hardware can manage it). So you could run MS Office or OpenOffice in its full-fledged working.
At the end of the day, according to me, Google TV is merely a neatly-packaged HTPC. So, what would you choose: the seamless integration offered by Google or the freedom of choice offered by a typical nettop? Leave us a comment and let us know.