Television isn’t easy to define. When you think about how the majority of us watch our shows nowadays, you realize TVs often aren’t involved at all. For better or worse, television has migrated to the Internet, and there have been countless debates as to how this is affecting the industry (some resulting in apocalyptic predictions). Yet I feel there’s an essential element to the future-of-TV debate that’s being missed by many pundits. It isn’t the move from TV to Internet, but the other way around.

Yes, the Internet is making its way onto your TV screen and has been for a while, though with little success. In 2007, Apple released Apple TV. It wasn’t cute and tiny and couldn’t be controlled with a touch-screen or dial, which probably explains why I don’t know anyone who owns one, but a second-generation version was released earlier this month (in true Apple fashion, it’s smaller and with more Gigs). This little device lets you access the Apple store, YouTube, Netflix and Flickr directly from your TV, which is nice for those who don’t have a magical HDMI cable.

There’s speculation that this re-release of Apple TV is due in part to Google’s latest foray into the television industry with Google TV. The project was announced back in May and will essentially let you surf the web with your remote. You can google things, you can watch TV and you can google things while you watch TV. Oh, and it comes with apps. It seems pretty awesome. Or maybe it would, if the development were going at all smoothly.

The TV industry clearly views the Internet as a huge threat. The Internet is the really cool cheerleader to TV’s geeky chess player and TV feels left in the shadow of the Internet’s spotlight. You can’t really expect TV to be thrilled about sharing the only thing it has that the Internet doesn’t: the actual box.

And because of this, the broadcast networks are giving Google one hell of a time at getting this project up and running. In an article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, it was reported that ABC, CBS and NBC are blocking their programming that is normally available on a web browser from being played on Google TV. Not being able to watch the best TV on your TV will definitely throw a wrench in the plans. It’s also been reported that Hulu plans on opting out of Google TV, making the technology pretty close to worthless.

So the TV-versus-Internet struggle continues. Yes, watching TV online is awesome and convenient. No, it’s not making significant money for the TV industry, which still depends primarily on advertising sales. Yes, it’s single-handedly causing the cancellation of great shows. But come on — it’s awesome and convenient! So now throw in the twist of Internet on your TV. Yes, maybe TV deserves (or even needs) a safe haven away from the web, but this might be the only way people will use their television sets, though in all honesty, it’s not likely.

I don’t know what the networks are getting all worked up over. Google TV doesn’t seem that great to me. It offers nothing new that I can’t already do on the Internet for free. The only new advantage is not having to balance my computer on my lap while watching TV. Nevermind the fact that keyboards and mice are way easier to use than a remote. Though Google has a Midas touch these days, so who really knows what will happen?

Even if the technology is successful — and again, I honestly don’t know why it would be — the worst it could do is encourage people to sit in front of their television sets some more and that’s not a bad deal for the TV networks. Imagine: You just got done watching a YouTube video of a dog doing parkour and you get a hankering to watch “National Dog Show” re-airings or remember that promo for “America’s Got Talent” with the zany animal act, so you minimize your internet screen and sift through the channel guide. The Internet could use its power for good and bring some life back to that box you only use for movies and video games.

So at the end of the day, after all the fence-riding and inner conflict over the Internet’s slow slaughtering of television and the undeniable convenience of online streaming, Google’s and Apple’s crazy new schemes remind us that it’s not all about the computer screen anymore. TV is trying to make a comeback. This whole TV-Internet rivalry is changing much too fast to keep predicting the effects. I, for one, am sick of the endless debate and will just settle in for the ride.

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