YouTube Leanback: YouTube That Looks Like TV
The average American watches five hours of TV a day. For YouTube, it's more like five minutes-a fact which the folks at YouTube don't like a bit. They think is due to it being too hard to consumer their service in mass quantities. So they're launching a new service-which the company showed as a sneak peek back at Google's I|O conference in May-called YouTube Leanback. (Yup, this is YouTube's second new version of the day: I saw it and the new YouTube Mobile at a press briefing this morning.)
Leanback is an expansion of the basic idea in an earlier service called YouTube XL. It runs in any browser that supports Flash-iPads need not apply-and is designed to make watching YouTube feel a bit like watching a personalized TV channel with a really slick program guide that can be controlled by keyboard. Videos display in full-screen mode, and you press the Up Arrow key to search and the Down Arrow key to reach playback controls, a feed of videos tailored to your interests (which are search results if you've just searched) and a browsable directory of videos in major categories.
Unlike the revamped YouTube Mobile, Leanback isn't trying to give you all the power of standard YouTube in a new format. It's YouTube stripped down to its bare essentials, and judging from my brief hands-on time with it so far, it's pretty nifty. Folks who have connected a PC to an HDTV will obviously be intrigued by Leanback-and it will run on Google TV devices once they're available-but YouTube execs at the briefing said they think people who watch the service on a laptop or desktop PC display will like it, too.
Here's YouTube's video demo of Leanback-if you try the service, let us know what you think.