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Today’s Show:

Google Fiber TV

We’ve been wondering for a while when the Sage TV technology would make its way back to the market as a Google offering and rumor has it, the day has arrived. The information circulating in the blogosphere is that the Sage TV team helped provide some of the tech behind the new Google Fiber TV that was recently unveiled. The service looks very intriguing, and knowing that it’s backed by Sage TV know-how is even more reassuring.

Google Fiber was unveiled in Kansas City just over a week ago.  It has two main components, first, and perhaps foremost to some, is an extremely high bandwidth Internet connection, both up and down, to the home.  Extremely high as in gigabit. That’s great, and it’ll make sure you can get VUDU HDX movies without a single stutter, but isn’t what caught our attention. What really grabbed us was the TV offering built on top of the fiber Internet connection.

The Google Fiber TV service is an IP-only delivery mechanism similar to AT&T U-verse that requires the crazy fast high-speed residential connections like you need with Verizon FiOS. But it isn’t just IPTV; Google decided to rewrap their TV service in a much more world-wide-web kind of way. All of the standard content you’re used to watching on cable or satellite is blended seamlessly with Internet video options like Netflix and YouTube.  Of course, it’s Google, so everything is indexed and searchable. And being from Sage TV, you get built-in placeshifting capabilities as well.

As anyone familiar with Google and their current strategy could probably guess, there will be major Mobile and Integration tie-ins as well. Some available already, some coming in the future.  On the Mobile side, you’ll have the ability to browse and share content, and eventually watch live content, from your Android devices – not to mention full command and control, but more on that later.  On the integration side, they’re working on things like a button that lets you “plus one” a show, the ability to change channels directly from your social stream and built-in Google+ video hangouts.  There’s also a cool Google drive tie-in, more on that later as well.

The service is built on top of a slim DVR of sorts, but it’s really much more than just a DVR. Sure it comes with two terabytes of storage and is capable of storing 500 TV episodes in full 1080p HD.  Sure it can record up to eight shows at once. But it also serves as a 4 port gigabit router and an 802.11n WiFi access point. In addition to the main DVR, there are smaller client boxes for the rest of the TVs in the home, like the Dish Hopper and Joey system. In addition to the 2 TB of local storage, you also get 1 TB of cloud storage via integration with Google Drive.

But the hardware goodness doesn’t stop there. The remote control for the unit isn’t the standard learning remote you get from most Cable or Satellite companies an immediate put in a cupboard somewhere. Google is doing one better by providing a full Nexus 7 tablet to control the system. Say what you will about touch screen remotes, it used to be that a remote akin to the Nexus 7 would cost over $1000. Throwing one in, because they can, is pretty cool. No word on how long the free Nexus 7 will last.

On the cost side, it isn’t quite as rosy as the technology side. To get up and running, you need to pay a $300 setup fee, or “construction fee” as Google calls it, to get your home wired up for the for the fiber connection. The fee is currently being waived, but that could change at any time. The main service package for $120 a month is the Gigabit Internet and TV package that gives you, according to Google, all major channels, hundreds of fiber channels and access to additional on-demand content. You can go Internet only for $70 per month or if you don’t need the super fast connection, by simply paying the construction fee, you can get 5 Mbps Internet service absolutely free. The claim is that the free service will be available and locked in for a minimum of seven years.

Although Google is claiming the TV service provides all major channels, that may not be the case, depending on how you define “major.” Yes, they have secured licensing rights for almost all of the major broadcast networks as well as several of the well-known cable channels like Discovery, Showtime and Nickelodeon.  But there are a few that would be considered “major” in HT Guys households that aren’t available on Google Fiber TV yet like Fox, ESPN and Disney.  For us, Fox and ESPN are absolute deal breakers.  For many, Disney channel falls into that same category.

Overall Google TV represents a cool new approach to TV service that, if nothing else, will encourage the rest of the players to innovate and enhance their offerings. Of course as a new offering from a company that has never done it before, we can expect some bumps along the road, but better to have a few bumps moving forward than no bumps standing still. If Google can come into the TV market and be Google, they could change the rules of the game permanently. It’s just a bummer for the rest of us that they’re only in Kansas City.


Download Episode #543

Posted by The HT Guys, August 9, 2012 10:53 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.