Google Is Ready to Change the Channel

I've said for years that as developers you need to get out of the rut of thinking about applications in the context of a computer screen at specific resolutions. I've also warned about thinking that smaller is the only direction that resolutions were changing.

Smart mobile devices are taking over the market with small screens running full-fledged applications. Mobile devices are not alone. While a number of companies have tried to merge the Web and television, none have succeeded in catching the attention of developers.

Could Google's attempt change that?

While it is too early to tell, my first impression is that Google TV is headed down the right track. Google TV. The best way to understand Google TV is to check out one of their short videos such as the following:

This video is an ad, and not that great of one. You get a similar idea of how interesting this will be by looking at the slides on the Google TV page.

Developing for Google TV

Of course, the key to web integration with television is making sure your apps fit the format. This includes considering the medium as well as how users will interact.

Just as a 1024x768 application isn't optimized for a mobile device, it also is not optimized for a television. Rather, in today's high-def word, you are better to target resolutions such as 1280x720 or 1920x1080. Of course, I've always been a proponent of dynamically adjustments to fit the resolution. Being that many of the HD televisions are 720p, if you only want to focus on one resolution, 1280x720 is the one to go after. Be aware; however, that your pages might get automatically scaled to 1080p (1920x1080) if you don't provide coding to cover the difference.

Of course, resolution is just one difference in targeting television with your applications. Other factors to consider when developing for the television include the following:

  • Avoid using pure white (#FFFFFF) as it can cause image ghosting and vibrancy on television displays.
  • Avoid bright colors such as bright whites, red, and orange
  • You have to consider that people can use different display mods on newer televisions. This can be standard, wide screen, zoomed, and more.
  • Fonts on a television should be used with care. Lightweight fonts might not show well. Droid Sans and Droid Serif font families are supported.
  • For readability, you should use text with care. For example, keep lines between 5 and 7 words. You should use 21 to 28 point fonts depending on the television resolution.
  • Use sound with care as well. Because music can also be played, you should make sure any application sounds can be turned off or muted.
  • Using bitmaps will optimize rendering. Vector graphics require more processing power.
  • Using a mouse pointer in TV apps is more difficult than on a computer. You should take this into consideration when including buttons (over size them) and in building navigation.

Of course, you can find a lot more information on Google's page for Optimizing websites for Google TV."

Google TV is Not a New Concept: Consider Apple TV, Microsoft Media Center

Of course, it is important to point out that Google TV is just the new player in this space. Other television Web systems have been around for a while. Of course the iPhone wasn't first smart phone, Word wasn't the first word processing program. iPad wasn't the first Slate device. The question is whether Google TV is destined to be like these other devices and thus posed to take over the Web/television world.



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