Originally Posted by Quixotequest A Big Release
July 13, 09: Released to North America for the weekend of July 10, the Samsung YouTube TV Widget became available for download. This is probably the biggest feature for the platform so far.
I have been unable to confirm if this is the same version that has been tested in other markets like the UK for the past few months. It is not yet even a Version 1 yet, so I suspect it may be the same build. On my TV (a 46" B750 model) it says this Widget is released by Samsung instead of YouTube so it is uncertain how similar the widget works when YouTube functionality appears on Sony or LG sets that also feature the Yahoo TV Widget platform. Certainly more improvements are bound for Widgets like this.
It's great to see a full-featured video streaming app make it to the TV Widgets platform. Compared to the Yahoo! Video Widget that has been available for several months -- and has a spartan video clip offering with infrequent updates -- the Samsung YouTube TV Widget is robust, allowing you to access all content that is available on YouTube. Unlike most TV Widgets that are designed to let you multitask via a Widget split screen while watching TV, the YouTube widget launches full screen once you select the general category (Highly Rated, Newest, Featured, Search, Most Discussion, etc.).
The full screen app looks reasonably attractive once functioning. Video and audio quality, of course, will vary from clip to clip. As more and more YouTube users are accessing content on HD-capable devices slowly content quality has been moving upward, even if it still remains a mixed bag. Much like the early days of the iPod, some picture quality loss is undoubtedly acceptable to have so much streaming content available easily from one's TV. Yet so far YouTube content can look (and sometimes sound) pretty rough on HDTVs of this size and caliber. However, I find it immensely cool to see this kind of content becoming accessible via a TV. A/V quality will no doubt continue to eek positively forward over time though that is by no means a certain predictor for content quality itself.A Slightly Different Intent than Online
The YouTube Widget plays clips continuously once started. For example, select a clip to play in a current content category. Once watched the next sequential clip in the previous clip queue will play automatically once the current clip is completed, and on and on. The usual online YouTube "Share" "Replay" and "Respond" features, as well as other clips contextually connected to the clip just watched, do not appear once the current clip completes playing. It seems the design intent of the YouTube Widget so far is to encourage you to sit back and just watch the variety of content as it queues. Sometimes this works; most the time it doesn't. Even with a custom search contextual linking is less strong, for example multiple parts of a given clip stream will not be weighted or linked to sequentially appear in the queue. The only weighting that really seems to predict content order in the queue are the search terms and the ratings of online YouTube users -- and presently the Widget does not allow you to rate content. If multipart clips were linked together this would be an even more cool widget.Early Interface Shortcomings
The navigation is fairly intuitive but there are early shortcomings. Text input works less effectively than in other Widgets currently available to the platform. The virtual "keyboard" arrangement is Alphabetical instead of QWERTY much like other Widgets (Twitter, Yahoo! suite widgets, etc.). Unfortunately column navigation does not wrap left-to-right or right-to-left like other Widgets. For example, on other Widgets featuring text entry you can click left from the left-most column of letters to arrive at the right-most column of letters and vice versa. This is an effective design nuance that improves the speed of entry in an environment of overall laggy response (that exists thru the entire current TV Widgets platform).
For the YouTube Widget, right-to-left wrap can't be logically implemented as a click off the right column of the keyboard moves one into the updating video content queue. But left-keyboard-column-to-right-keyboard-column wrap could certainly be implemented. This would be an improvement, for sure, but the biggest improvement -- besides the need to just be more snappy in speed -- would be to see the RED/GREEN/YELLOW/BLUE generic remote keys used. So far they have no functionality. Were they to work as a space bar, delete key, symbols toggle, or etc., text entry would VASTLY improve. Navigating thru the "keyboard" to select a space bar, for example, is an atrociously annoying barrier to entry speed that needn't exist. Not only could the Samsung YouTube Widget benefit, but every other text entry feature on other Widgets on the platform could too.
The custom Search also needs a "clear search" function added. The only way to change a custom search is to navigate down to the virtual delete key on the keyboard -- and delete one's previous search letter by letter -- or to select one of the other content categories and then click back to the Search category.
A feature of the Samsung YouTube widget is that as one enters text in the keyboard to the left, available video content queue continuously updates on the right of the screen. A plus is that it often allows you to find content you're seeking before the entire text has been entered, assuming you're wise about selecting the keywords. But perform a search like my 13-year-old who isn't so judicious about word choice selection this feature ends up making a laggy text entry even more so. Plus it is annoying when an errant click right from the right-most keyboard column places you into the clip queue which requires extra navigation back to the keyboard to complete one's entry. The simple right click from keyboard to queue works when you've found the content you're seeking, but given the current lagginess, more often it proves a barrier to effective text entry on the virtual keyboard itself.Functionality Shortcomings
Viewing and contributing to video clip comment threads is not functional on the Widget. This is no big deal in my opinion. However, it is unfortunate that the Widget is not (YET) designed "smart" enough in that you:(a) Can't rate content yourself(b) Can't log in to your own YouTube account to add to or view your own Favorite clips.(c) Can't have the Widget honor mature or inappropriate content account settings.
This may be a negative for a TV that otherwise presently offers the usual TV parental controls. My sons, for example, were viewing a "Guns N Roses at McDonalds" cartoon and immediately after a clip with a cartoon cumming penis drawing began to play. It just happened to be the next clip in the queue by whatever way the Widget selects a queue. Granted, YouTube online is a site that is a mixed bag of content quality and appropriateness, but this Widget presently has less control and less efficient content ordering and contextual linking than the online site. Having the Widget honor content parameters like you can set online would be an improvement. However if mature or inappropriate content must be completely avoided then this Widget is not for you, and may never be.Summary: A Decent Start
My problems with the YouTube Widget are mostly issues of interface design and interface lag (that also affects the Yahoo Widgets platform in general). I have had no troubles with streaming content playing well once selected. (My TV is connected via Ethernet cable to my router with a 6 megabit connection; I have not yet tried these new TV features wirelessly.) A Widget like this is a great feature to see emerging on TVs and is a hopeful sign -- given that this isn't even a Version 1 build yet -- of a platform that should mature and will not only be an effective marketing feature but also one that more and more consumers will begin to use.