David Zax

A View from David Zax

Google TV's Revamped YouTube App

YouTube’s quest to rival Hulu and Netflix advances, slowly.

  • February 17, 2012

YouTube continues to get a facelift, this time through its app on Google TV. Google announced the YouTube app update this week, explaining that app was faster, smoother, and that it had added a feature it called “Discover,” which allows users to browse YouTube channels by categories.

As updates go, it’s a relatively minor one–hardly an overhaul. But it highlights the ways in which Google is leveraging YouTube to become more of a competitor to sites like Hulu and Netflix. As I wrote back in November, when Google TV issued a significant update to its software, most of us still think of YouTube as a place to go on an ad hoc basis: you’re in the mood for a quick laugh, or a music video, or a video of cat antics. Deep in YouTube’s DNA, or at least our perception of its DNA, is that it’s a place for clips, not shows.

YouTube, it appears, increasingly wants to shed that image, aiming for more a “lean back experience.” Even if you’re only a casual YouTube user, you’ve probably found yourself stumbling along a playlist–say, if you typed in the name of a favored musical artist–and been delighted that with a single, simple mouse click, you could launch yourself on an hours-long journey of content. YouTube has also inked original content deals with many big names of late (think Amy Poehler, Shaquille O’Neal, and Madonna, for starters).

Google may have overhyped the news of its YouTube update, which it had termed “big.” The real bit of Google news that everyone is looking forward to is what the Wall Street Journal has said would be a Google-branded “home-entertainment system” that, perhaps among other things, could stream music throughout your house.

The other thing we’d like to see from Google is for it to try to become a cable TV company of its own, something I mused about following, again, a Wall Street Journal report suggesting the search giant might be contemplating such a move. These WSJ reports keep painting Google as a being on the brink of seriously disrupting the TV space. When will Google finally live up to that hype?

Meanwhile, 9to5Mac reports that a new Apple TV might be in the offing, too, putting me in mind of Steve Jobs’s now-famous pronouncement that he had “finally cracked it!” Let’s hope someone has. If you’re anything like me, you’re anxious for TV to have finally and definitively entered the new era everyone’s been promising us for years.

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