YouTube’s new look: Web surfing meets channel surfing

(Corrects earlier version to clarify YouTube has hundreds of thousands, not millions, of channels)

YouTube wants to be more like the boob tube.

The world’s No.1 video website unveiled an overhaul of its site on Thursday that will put the hundreds of thousands of online video “channels” front and center.

For many, YouTube is a place to go looking for a specific video. With the redesign, YouTube hopes users will make a habit of visiting the site just to see what’s playing on their favorite channels.

“We’re trying to take the best of what we see in TV and the best of online and bring it together,” said Shishir Mehrotra, YouTube VP of product development, during a briefing with reporters at the company’s San Bruno, California headquarters.

The notion of channels on YouTube is not new. Amateur and professional video producers already create their own specialized channels – devoted to topics ranging from soccer to Lego animation – through which they organize the various clips they offer on YouTube.

In the Larry Page era, wither the splashy Google product launch?

Remember the days when Google had big splashy product launches?

It almost seems like a bygone era, with the Web search giant now appearing to favor a more muted approach to product unveilings.

The change in style may reflect the change at the top, with Larry Page, Google’s famously laconic co-founder, taking the CEO reins in April.

Consider Friday’s unveiling of the revamped Google TV service. All the key media outlets were pre-briefed on the news ahead of time, resulting in the usual blanket of press coverage. But there was none of the fanfare that accompanied the rollout of the first version of Google TV, during which CEOs from partners such as Intel, Sony and other companies took the stage at Google’s developer conference last year.

Orb TV: the latest device bringing web to TV

Orb TV alonephotoAdd Orb TV to the list of devices that is attempting to bring the web to the TV. The Oakland, Calif.-based company launched the product on Thursday — a hockey puck shaped object (pictured on the left) that promises to deliver all sorts of content  available on the Internet straight to your TV.

Orb TV is selling for $99 (purchased only through its website)  and can help you find any show regardless of the source including content from Hulu, YouTube and CBS or from your computer like photos, according to Orb TV.  Users control the device through a smartphone app and can search simply by typing in a show like “Glee.”

“Our belief is that the evolution of digital media has been stymied,” said Orb TV CEO Joe Costello. “The whole premise it that it should be enjoyed anywhere, anytime and to make it simple. The last part hasn’t happened.”

Western Digital enters crowded digital living room with new device

This holiday season, technology companies are singing a familiar refrain: “Everybody gather around the TV.” With Apple Inc and Google Inc already rolling out their devices to plug into the home television, the connected living room just got more crowded, as hard drive maker Western Digital Corp has updated its television media player just in time to compete with the likes of Apple TV and Google TV for the almighty holiday shopping dollar.WD TV Live Hub

Western Digital’s latest offering, the WD TV Live Hub at a price point of $199, is an update to the Lake Forest, California-based company’s  last media player. A key difference is this one comes with a 1 terabyte hard drive built-in, while the previous version had to be connected to an external hard drive for stored movies, music and photos. Western Digital also upgraded the interface on the device and gave it  a wireless keyboard made it compatible with wireless keyboards, which users can wield from the couch. Like the previous version of WD TV, this device has Internet connectivity. It can stream movies from Netflix, download films from Blockbuster, access a user’s Facebook page and more.

While Apple TV is priced lower at $99, that device is mostly geared toward streaming rented TV shows and movies over the Web, whereas Western Digital is taking a bet that users will want to download movies and TV shows, not just stream them. Hence that 1 terabyte of storage.

How much will Google TV cost?

Almost five months after telling the world about its television aspirations, Internet search giant Google is providing more details on its forthcoming Google TV service.

The first devices featuring Google TV, from Sony and Logitech, will be available this month, Google said in a blog post on Monday.

Google also listed a variety of media and technology companies whose content and services will be available on Google TV, including HBO, Netflix, Twitter and music video website Vevo.