Everyone is abuzz over GoogleTV creating a paradigm shift in entertainment…. myself included.

What could be bad? All digital. Surfing from the couch. Social check ins. An easy-to-use time-shifted TV viewing reality.

I’m ready…but for those of us willing to live in the small laptop screen or geeky enough to hardwire the pieces together we have not all…but most of the promised goodness on WebTV today.

WebTV is well beyond its early stage already. With movies, TV shows, great new web content like ThisWeekIn… The web is fast becoming a digital video and TV frontier.

Whether you are on your laptop, wired from your Mac Mini to your large screen with Boxee, using Hulu…this is no longer a small niche by any standard.

New numbers on WebTV and TV watching online from eMarketer are enlightening:

  • 33% of the US Internet population watches full-length TV programs today; growing to 39% by years’ end
  • Hulu alone has 38.7 million unique monthly visitors. Largest video streaming site on the internet after YouTube.
  • 14.6 million-web devices that can run TV applications shipped in last 12 months, increasing to 83.4 million in 2014
  • 50% of everyone who watches any video online, will watch a full-length TV show

Mind-boggling actually…in the US, one in three connected people watch network TV shows online and one in two who use video in any way do some portion of their TV watching from the web.

In Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm way of thinking, we are just this side of an Early Majority position with WebTV and the chasm-crossing leap is only a holiday season away.

So with GoogleTV and the Boxee Box and every TV for sale with an HDMI plug, what’s the difference between now and…then, when these solutions launch?

The obvious changes will be:

  1. It will be easy and inexpensive to purchase and install for everyone
  2. More big screens will drive more content
  3. Some built in widgets (apps) like YouTube, maybe Facebook and IMDB
  4. Browsing and searching via Google from the couch position

Honestly, this is great but not a revolution. The iPad was a revolution, this is a big iteration pushing the web to the big screen WebTV experience. I like easy. I like larger displays. I like apps. We need search. But I want what I can’t imagine which is more than just the webification of the big screen.

Richard Kastelein, a friend, blogger and founder of AppMarket.TV believes that one of the big gaps to bridge is ‘lean back interactive in your living room’ versus ‘lean forward at your desk or laptop’. It’s the remote versus the keyboard and the mouse. Content will come. But seamless control of the web interactive elements of search, community and social are the mountains to scale.

Hmmm…So according the industry and folks a lot more in the know than I, the intersection of the widgets on the big screen (like an embedded app), a consistent interface for search, social attributes and some cool device like glidetv for surfing are the formula for the future.

I’m missing something here.

If interface and usability are the kingpins, then why not Apple rather than Google as the architect of the best solution? Steve Jobs, more than anyone gets usability and the mass market. Google is search but certainly they don’t understand GUI or social or consumers.

And I can’t imagine connected TV to be a single screen solution. We are all sitting on our couches with iPads and laptops and phones. This is not going to change. So why isn’t the input one of these devices, like an iPad as the control and with special social content?

Maybe an anecdote might clarify my uneasiness at settling with GoogleTV as the answer.

Recently I was watching ThisWeekInVentureCapital with Mark Suster and Mo Koyfman talking about efficiencies on the web. Mo made a statement that when you take an old industry and bring it online, you don’t just webify it or make it more efficient, you take the core of the old and its value and find something new…something better. This seems right on to me.

So…what is that leap to something new with connected TV?

Maybe it’s just more efficient. Maybe it’s a standard interface with some widgets and open access to a gazillion apps. Maybe it’s a perfect and closed and controlled Apple world of ease-of-use and locked down. Or maybe it’s just what we have today but bigger.

I don’t buy into this.

A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined riding on the subway or sitting in the coffee shop, watching TV and working and tweeting on my iPad. Or building distribution systems for my clients that connected their Facebook fan pages to their e-commerce storefronts.

I’m a video and movie aficionado and ever so ready for connected and social TV. See my post on this.  But the web is still figuring out social video and socialization around WebTV. It’s not necessarily the model to copy. The jump from laptop to big screen is fraught with opportunities for new ways of entertainment and needs more than a redo of the current web reality, retooled for the digital living room.

You agree?

What will make you and the hundreds of millions yet to buy, do so and enjoy in a new and more interesting way?


Thanks to my friend Jennifer Fader for always finding interesting data before I do.