Will Google Bring Us Tabbed Windows on TV?

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There’s been some recent news about the possibility of Google working with the Dish Network to bring searches for television programming and YouTube videos to TVs, reported at places like the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ article tells us that besides actual tests of a Google settop box that allows searching for TV programming, that Google has “been talking to a range of other television-service providers and hardware makers, prodding them to use its Android-based technologies to offer a broader range of programming, a more personal experience and ads.”

If Google were to start providing a program guide for televsion and web videos, what would it look like? My suspicion is that it would be more like something we tend to see on the Web than many of the television program guides offered by cable services. And it might bring us tabbed windows on our TVs, like in the following images:

Screenshot from Google patent filing showing a front window with information about a movie, and three tabs at top with movie names and times.
Screenshot from Google patent filing showing a front window with information about a news broadcast, with two tabs above showing names and times of news shows.
screenshot of a single tv program with sidebar information about the show, and a tab above showing the show name and time.

Imagine turning on your television and using your remote control to go to a program guide that allows you to open up different channels in tabs, like on a Web browser.

The tabs might display some information about the shows associated with each, and may make it easy for you to flip between multiple television channels.

That’s the topic of a patent filing from Google, published last July, that may hint at a move by Google onto television screens, and possibly providing multimedia content on other kinds of screens as well, such as the one on your phone. It describes an interface that could be used with broadcast programs, video on demand services, and a program guide which provides information about television programs.

The tabbed TV windows above are from the Google’s patent application.

Tabbed Windows for Viewing Multimedia Programs
Invented by Shirin Oskooi
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20090144648
Published June 4, 2009
Filed: December 4, 2007


A device may, in response to a command, generate a first tabbed window that frames a viewing area on a display screen, present multimedia content in the viewing area, and expand the viewing area that contains the multimedia content to cover the display screen after presenting the multimedia content for a particular amount of time.

The WSJ article tells us some more about the test that Google is running with some Dish Network users, that “Viewers in the Google test, these people said, can search by typing queries, using a keyboard rather than a remote control.” The Google patent filing shows off a remote control rather than a keyboard, but the document tells us that it could just as easily use a keyboard or a mouse or some other kind of wireless device,

Here’s a view of the remote control displayed in the patent filing.

Remote control from Google patent filing on tabbed windows.

Will we see tabs on TV in the future, like those on our browsers? It’s a possibility.

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34 thoughts on “Will Google Bring Us Tabbed Windows on TV?”

  1. Not bad :) Tabs can be somewhat helpful. You can get to a channel or a show quickly and easily.

  2. The joys of tabs :-) I like the idea, and it would be great to see youtube on freeview like they have done with BBC iplayer here in the UK.

  3. Interesting considering the way most direct TV, DVR, etc are already moving towards this. You may not have the tab that is prominent, but doesn’t the “guide” feature on a lot of cable providers remind you of this. It is almost like you are surfing through search results and you get to preview the content first. Just a thought..

  4. So much for Google. I hope they don’t put up their Adsense adverts on our TV screens. And Tabs on the TV? You have their numbers on your finger tips. Don’t you?

    Thanks for warning us on this :-)

  5. Asides from Google trying to use tabs to take over the world. I fail to see what’s really new between this and the current plethora of program guides available for all networks. We can already compile favourites, browse / view multiple channels with thumbnails, so personally it’s the same to me to press channel up or down as it would be to select previous or next tab.

  6. Anyone that watches any streaming tv already sees this. Then the new tvs with apps installed look like are going to do this as well. Anywhere ads can go they will.

  7. Hi Andrew,

    I do like the idea of having multiple tabs open at the same time, and being able to go between tabs quickly. That isn’t too hard to do between two different channels with my remote control now, but virtually impossible with more than two.

  8. Hi Dave,

    I’m wondering how YouTube videos would look on my television screen. I do like the idea of being able to watch things like Ted videos and other similar programs on the TV.

  9. Hi Keith,

    The program guides that cable and satellite provides include with their services do seem to be evolving in this direction, advertisements and all. I’m hoping that if Google does continue to develop this that they provide something that gives us more ability to search amongst television programming based upon things like actors, directors, topics, and possibly even transcripts of programs.

  10. Hi Nathan,

    I would like to try it out. Right now, it seems like what Google is doing is limited to limited test runs on the Dish network, but as I noted in my post, they are talking with other service providers and hardware makers. I’m not sure that I would want to switch over to satellite to have these kinds of features available, but I’m wondering how likely it might be that a Comcast or a Verizon would use a program guide from Google. If they don’t, hopefully they might be inspired to include better program guides with their services.

  11. Hi Jack,

    There have been a few patent filings from Google on TV advertising, so it’s likely that we would see ads in a program guide that they develop. But, I’m alreading seeing ads on the program guide from my service provider. I suspect it’s unavoidable.

  12. Hi Brent,

    My suspicion is that the biggest difference between what Google would offer and what is presently offered by many service providers would be the ability to search programming, and open tabs based upon those searches so that you could choose between programs.

  13. Hi Curtis,

    I understand that there are more TVs that will become available that are internet enabled. I don’t know exactly what those will be like, but I’m not surprised that Google wants to be involved somehow.

  14. With technology advancing so quickly nowadays, I can see Google getting a piece of the pie when it comes to combining their services with television. The sky is the limit with Google! They can do almost anything with all of their sophisticated programs, and so many incredible IT workers putting programs together for them. Tabs probably will be something we will see in the future.

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  16. Hi T. R.,

    It wouldn’t be surprising to see Google getting more involved with TV given their development of advertising for television, their partnering with the DISH network for testing of a searchable program guide, news about possible Android powered settop boxes, and the development of Google Video search back in 2005.

  17. I guess I just don’t see how this is any different than changing the channel. I personally would like to see improvements on how we interface with our TV’s though and if there’s one company that will do it that will probably be Google.

  18. Hi Chris,

    What I found interesting is that the way we think of TV has the potential to undergo a transformation to be more like the Web. Instead of just television programming, we stand a chance of seeing video from the internet, and we may start navigating through channels in a way that’s more like switching tabs between web pages. Being able to search tv programming for topic, actors, directors and producers and more is a change over the program guides most of us have now as well.

  19. I think that this would be a neat feature on a TV, But also think it might be slightly pointless as it is just like changing the channel.
    Thanks for sharing.

  20. Tabs is not a bad idea. In fact I like it. The TV has been here for like how many decades and nothing much has really changed. Yes we got bigger screens, but the way it presents content to its viewers? So “single-process-like” not the same multi-process in computers. Perhaps this will change soon. =D

  21. Hi SJL Web Design,

    You’re welcome. I think I would like to try something like this out, given the chance. My remote does give me the chance to bounce back and forth between two different channels, but sometimes there are more than two things that I’m considering watching, and I think this could be convenient.

  22. Hi Christopher,

    There have been changes to TV over the years, but it hasn’t changed as the same pace that the internet has. It does look like we will see more and more convergence between TV and the Web.

  23. Google has all ways done a great job of taking something and making it better. I think this is a great idea and would love to see what Google can do to improve TV as we know it today.

  24. It’s a great idea, can you imagine it? It almost seems impossible but with Google, you never know. They seem to roll out idea after idea that just keeps blowing the mind of the whole industry. Come on Google, take over television next!

  25. Hi Marty,

    It looks like Google is moving towards showing Web content on TV. I just read an article about Logitech building a set top box to be released in the fall of 2010 that will bring Google TV people without internet enabled TVs. We’ll probably see other hardware manufacturers getting involved as well.

  26. Hi,

    It’s amazing the progress being made with TV at the moment. Ok, the idea of 3D TV has been around for years but now that we are starting to perfect it, it’s potential is exciting!

    I’d like a tabbed view of the TV – i’m a channel flicker like most and it would bring together the quality of HDTV with the convenience of many channels closer together.

  27. Hi Stuart,

    I haven’t had the chance to experience Google TV yet, so I’m not sure if they’ve added tabs to the interface. I like the idea as well.

  28. Google will not only bring us tabbed TV – they will be bringing us just about everything!

    I swear to God, Google will be creating computers and cars in the future. Mark my words.

  29. Hi Nabil,

    I expect that we will be surprised by some of the stuff that Google decides to come out with in the future, and those may be something that make cars and computers on the mundane side. :)

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