Google TV, despite being launched and relaunched with much pomp and expectations, has not quite managed to reach the market it intended to. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to proclaim that the foray of Internet on our television screens previously has been an utter failure. And this, you see, is despite the fact that there are giants like Apple and Google scampering for the top spot.
Last week, Ubuntu’s own little warrior came sauntering into this hallowed market, but only to deliver a nice big surprise. At CES, when the Unity-based Ubuntu TV was unveiled, even the most pious of Apple fanboys couldn’t help feeling a tinge of jealousy. The demo, which showcased a beautiful-yet-functional interface, left all the Unity-bashers a tad guilty.
Having said that, it would be wrong to call Ubuntu TV a game-changer, as Apple, Google, and -- yes, we haven’t forgotten them -- Microsoft too are working hard on bringing something intelligent and intuitive to the idiot box. However, we’re not that interested in the efforts of Apple, or Microsoft, what we, as FOSS fanatics, are interested in is the battle between two Linux-based smart TV platforms: Google TV and Ubuntu TV.
Though Ubuntu TV hasn’t reached the consumers yet, a quick demo at CES showed us how clean and intuitive the interface really is. The experience is no different from what we get on our desktops, but having Unity on it makes it a force to reckon with. However, don’t think that my derision for the ‘NEW’ Ubuntu ceases with Ubuntu TV: Unity was and still is, to me, a crippled interface that is just wrong for our desktops. But when, this much-hated feature shows up on the good old television, you forget that you ever criticized Unity. From the CES demo, and the reviews we read on various tech-related sites, Ubuntu TV could, quite unexpectedly, be the TV interface we’ve been waiting for.
Google TV on the other hand, has been around for a long time. Based on the Android interface, the interface is quite easy to use and clean too. However, when compared to the aforementioned Ubuntu TV, it does seem a bit cluttered and unintuitive. Instead of focusing on content, Google TV tries to bring too many things to the table, adding to the complexity of the interface. Ubuntu TV, however, stays classy by giving you just the content.
Winner: Ubuntu TV
Though Google TV is based on Android, its interface is totally different from what you have on your phone or tablet. There are a few similarities here and there, but the Google TV doesn’t make an Android user feel at home. Ubuntu TV however, makes sure that an Ubuntu user gets the best experience without missing their computer. If Ubuntu on mobile takes off as Shuttleworth expects it to, then Ubuntu TV will be a brand you won’t be able to ignore.
Winner: Ubuntu TV
It’s not clear as to how many tie-ups Ubuntu TV will have, but from what we’ve seen at CES, it’s enough to satisfy the needs of most TV-lovers. On the other hand, the Android-based Google TV goes one step further by providing an assortment of high quality apps, a domain that is very lucrative these days. Undoubtedly, if Ubuntu TV gets a big audience, it might catch up in this department; however, Google TV will always be a step ahead. Google has partnerships with a lot of content providers, and, not to forget, the movies and TV shows you can rent/buy from Netflix, Android store, and YouTube.
Winner: Google TV
At this early stage, it is difficult to know whether Ubuntu TV will be able to live up to its expectations or not. Also, don’t forget that Apple too is surreptitiously working on something big for the TV market. So, as good as Ubuntu TV might seem, it won’t be easy for Canonical to break into such a big market. Nevertheless, Ubuntu does promise to bring something unexpected and fresh to the TV market, and it might as well be the game-changing product we’ve been waiting for.