Mom's PC is Google TV

The weekend before Christmas, mom phoned, excited, to tell me about her new 46-inch TV. She lives on a tight budget, but received an unexpected $350 windfall from Social Security. That's lots of money to her, and she spent most of it on a Sylvania big-screen television. The purchase inspired her holiday present, which I hadn't yet decided on: Google TV.

Mom will be 71 this year, and she's confined to a wheelchair because of diabetes, which also has diminished her eyesight. For my mum, the PC and TV are vitally important, particularly during long New England winters when she can't get out often. Much as the Google Cr-48 Chromebook meets most of her computing needs, the 12.1-inch screen is too small, particularly in context: Mom previously used a 17-inch iMac G5 (purchased in October 2005); the graphics chip failed last year. What mom really needs is something really big, and there Google TV offers the benefits of television and PC in one package.

I wanted to send mom the Sony NSZ-GT1 Google TV and Blu-ray player. Sony is committed to Google TV. The other supporter at the time, Logitech, had given up on the platform after losing tens of millions of dollars on it. But for mom to use Google TV as her PC, Sony's tiny game-controller-like remote wouldn't do. Logitech Revue comes with wireless keyboard that makes more sense for typing and for using Google TV as a personal computer. Mom loves it. She's liberated by Revue.

Mom isn't an obsessive TV watcher. The big benefit is getting PC capabilities on a screen she can actually read and use on the television services like Netflix streaming that are primary forms of entertainment on her personal computer. Google TV couldn't meet mom's needs, if not for Chrome. The browser opens up all the cloud and content applications she's used -- particularly since moving to Chromebook six months ago, she has lived in the cloud, and that's an experience easily transferred to Google TV. So now she surfs the web and checks and writes email on the big screen, for example. It's ideal for her needs.

I wouldn't have been as inspired about sending her the Revue, if not for Google TV 2.0 software released in October and delivered to the Logitech set-top box last month. The user experience is greatly improved. Still, I'm dissatisfied with the update, for failing to truly transform Google TV. But it seems to be a work in progress that requires change of habits. The progress: Google adding more content partners, and some stuff not seen much anywhere else -- like Crunchyroll. The habits: To really appreciate Google TV, you've got to largely give up the cable or IPTV provider's program guide.

For mom, Google TV is working out better than Chromebook for two other reasons that I would never have guessed: Apps and Android. Mom uses the Google-branded, Samsung-manufactured Nexus S smartphone I got for free (with 2-year contract activation), during a Best Buy one-day special last summer. The Android phone experience makes Google TV easier for her to grasp than does Chrome OS, which surprised me; I reasoned that the browser would be the more familiar interface. Perhaps, but if you're looking for more out of any computing device, apps and customization matter more -- and these attributes make Google TV easier to use and more familiar to her.

On the apps front, I'm quite interested in how the OEMs differ in their distributions. I updated Logitech Revue to Google TV 2.0 before sending it to mom but didn't use it. Unless my imagination has gone awry, there was an Amazon video-on-demand app installed with the Android update. Well, hell, I don't have one of those on my Sony Google TV. I have to use Chrome or go to Amazon Instant Videos from Google TV's movie search feature. Why Logitech and not Sony?

Back to mom, she needed some assistance physically setting up Revue -- being mostly confined to the wheel chair. Mom's Comcast cable box is in another room, so uses WiFi and not wired connection. Software setup she handled, including cable box, channel guide and other basic capabilities. She's sometimes confused when using Google TV 2.0, but the Home bar provides a safety zone. The remote is dunsel. My mum uses the keyboard and Revue to navigate the Comcast box and program guide, but she is only just starting to understand the benefits of Google search to find content.

"I like everything about the Google TV", mom says, and I couldn't get her to be more specific than that -- perhaps because it so simply suits her basic computing, communications, entertainment and informational needs.

© 1998-2014 BetaNews, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy.