Google TV in a Nutshell:
The idea behind smart TVs is that not only do they allow you to connect to the Internet, but they allow the TV to add services and suggestions (and yes, ads) tailored to your preferences.
One of the things that makes Google TV stand out is that it offers a full version of the Chrome Web browser and all the Web-based services you can use with it. That means you can check your email using Gmail or another Web-based email service. Chrome on Google TV can also play Flash videos, which means it can handle most streaming videos. (Hulu is intentionally trying to block Google TV access, though some users have found workarounds.)
More on Google TV:
Google TV can be seen as a transitional device. In the future, chances are great that none of us will get our content from TVs. Many consumers are already searching for ways to get rid of pricey cable subscriptions, and media companies are examining their strategies for putting content online. Do they charge per episode? Do they stream everything and put ads on it? Do they charge a subscription and saddle viewers with extra shows as "bonus" content?
Meanwhile, there are several strategies emerging for how to deal with connecting your TV to the Internet. Some users simply take a computer and hook it up to their TV as a home theater PC or HTPC. Some use dedicated devices that allow you to view a few types of content, such as the AppleTV or Ryoku devices. These one-or-two-trick ponies are much cheaper (most are around $99) but aren't as customizable.
Google's approach is to create a platform and allow developers to do what they will with it. That may be the right approach, since content providers and developers don't have to go to as much effort to get their content to your TV, but it may be the wrong approach as media companies try their hardest to hold onto whatever profit margins they can and squeak out exclusive deals with compaines like Microsoft to bring content to their devices.
That brings up another point about Google TV - game systems. If you have a game console, chances are that you can already stream Netflix and Amazon movies, so you may not need an additional device. The Google TV system may end up being more appealing to new users without game consoles, but the user interface isn't less intimidating. Google TV apps may cure both problems, both by adding game appeal and by adding simplified user interface options.
The Bottom Line - Do You Need One?
If you want to stream Netflix movies and watch streaming TV shows from your favorite networks, this is a good choice. If you were looking at buying a Blu-ray player, the Sony system is a really good choice, since it combines Blu-ray and Google TV and has a fully firmware upgradeable Blu-ray player which will support 3D content in the next update. That's something missing from a lot of cheap set-top Blu-ray players. However, there is a small learning curve. If you can us an Android phone, you can probably figure this out, though the two interfaces aren't completely the same. If you still haven't programmed your VCR to stop flashing midnight, you may want to hold off until next year. .