There is a lot of confusion about Google TV. Since Google TV can perform so many functions, it is hard to describe. Let's first break down the misconceptions.
Google TV is not a television. Although there are models of Sony TVs that are equipped with Google TV--called "Google Internet TVs,"--a television that features Google TV is only one form of Google TV.
Google TV does not have a TV tuner so it doesn't receive TV stations. But, Google TV does connect to your cable or satellite receiver. During the set up of Google TV you indicate who is your TV programming provider--Dish, DirecTV, Comcast or other cable company--and which stations you receive. Google TV finds your TV program guide so that it can tell you "What's On Now."
Google TV is not simply the internet on your TV. But using the included Google Chrome web browser, you can surf the whole internet and visit websites like you do on your computer. One of Google TV's main features is its ability to search both the internet and your TV programming to find the shows you want to watch. Note that some video streaming websites are blocking Google TV from accessing TV shows.
Google TV also incorporates Android. With Android, Goople TV makes apps available for your TV experience in the same way Android phones have apps. Apps that are preloaded on Google TV are predominately links to online content like podcasts, Netflix, Napster, Pandora and more. For more details on how Android is integrated into Google TV, read our supplementary report.
The Logitech Revue, a set top Google TV device, does include a few apps. One of them is the Logitech Media Player, a network media player app that can find the photos, music and movies on your home network and play them on your TV. There is also an app that works with Logitech's optional Google TV camera accessory letting you make video calls from your couch a la Skype's new TV capabilities.
What is Google TV?
Google TV can best be explained by what it does for you: it shows you what there is to watch right now, or it lets you search for something you want to watch.
Google TV lets you access the entertainment you want when you want it, whether the TV show comes from your connected cable or satellite provider or is streamed from an online video site or podcast. If you don't know what you want to watch, Google TV lets you choose from a list of categories of entertainment from movies to comedies to sports, an easy-to-navigate list of TV programs currently being shown on TV channels. There are also apps-- Netflix, Amazon On Demand--to browse online content.
Like most network media players, Google TV includes viewing photos from websites like Picasa, and music from websites like Napster and Pandora.
Google TV can be found as a stand-alone device like that of Logitech's Revue, but it's just as likely to be added as a feature in a Blu-ray Disc player (Sony) or a Satellite receiver (DISH). And, as mentioned above, it can be built into a TV.
Google TV is a platform, almost like the operating system on your computer or mobile phone. In much way that mobile phones became smartphones when they got operating systems--the iPhone OS, Android, or Windows 7--Google TV is a new way to interact with your TV and home entertainment.
You only have to look at the new ways we use our phones--as a GPS, a pedometer, to keep our shopping list, or to surf the web--to see the future of how we can use our TVs through platforms such as Google TV and Samsung's Apps. It's changing fast. Stay tuned for updates on the updates to Google TV.
UPDATE 11/01/11: Google TV 2.0 Upgrade Implemented
UPDATE 7/26/12: Google TV Improves Movie Searches (Engadget)