With the Internet coming to TV on streaming boxes, like Xbox's Live TV redux, which debuts tomorrow, the experience of television watching is looking to get a lot more like Web surfing and a lot less like vegging out on the couch. With these TV boxes, the Internet comes to your TV. But that doesn't just mean Netflix and Hulu offerings in the living room. It means all Internet activities -- shopping, Googling, social networking -- come to the small screen. And not just as a separate experience, but integrated into the television watching aspect of TV-time. That means more clicking and less zoning.
While these TV boxes aren't exactly replacing cable, both the revamp of Xbox and Google's streaming TV's tout the web improvements of the set with better search and social integration. Instead of just having Google and Bing available on the sets, both companies tweaked search for more relevant, purchasable results. As The Associated Press's Ryan Nakashima explains, asking for "Bing. Xbox. Iron Man," surfaces movies, music and games related to the movie along with places to rent or purchase the movie. In addition to better search, these sets are hooked up to social media. Google TV 2.0, for example, integrates Twitter and all these streaming boxes have connections to Facebook. As we stream, we will also "like" and "tweet" and "Google."
But it's not just that we will be Interneting from our couches, soon these web activities will occur during TV watching. We've already seen Twitter integration into programs like The Amazing Race, which got people Tweeting during the show. And now it looks like shopping too will become a part of our TV-time. Verizon will introduce a service that lets viewers purchase wares they see within shows as they watch, The New York Times's Tanzina Vega reports. TV time is about to get a lot more clicky, which sounds pretty intrusive and not all too appealing for an activity that is supposed to involve as little motion as possible.
Yet, perhaps it won't all boil down to typing and clicking. If we're lucky, future Internet-TV hybrids will adapt for a less clicky, more seamless experience. Just as Steve Jobs had predicted, the future of the coming together of Internet and TV will depend on the remote. Jobs knew that an "awkward" and "confusing" remote wouldn't fly with webevision, according to The New York Times's Nick Bilton. Beating Apple TV to the punch, Microsoft is already trying to combat this problem on the Xbox, using its Kinect technology to allow for motion and voice controlled surfing. Instead of Bing searching with cumbersome typing and clicking, simply saying "Xbox. Iron Man" brings up the relevant results. Of course, that could be just as annoying as typing and clicking, since TV watching generally involves a level of silence. But Xbox isn't betting completely on the Steve Jobs voice theorem. Xbox Live TV also has a phone "Companion" app that complements the console, bringing up the same helpful Bing searches the set would, which is basically just like watching TV while playing on the computer phone.