Google TV

Google announced their TV at the recent Google I/O. I haven’t written anything about it yet as I wanted to consider all the details first. I liked what I saw when their Bluetooth wasn’t giving them any trouble. Actually scratch that, I loved what I saw. I really think Google has something here, something far better than any internet TV device that came before it. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean it’s going to actually capture the market.

The key to success for Google TV is to get all the devices that people use and already have connected to the TV running Google’s software. Your cable box, DVR, Blu-Ray player and the TV itself needs to run on Google TV. Having a box that sits between your DVR and TV is not the most elegant solution. Unfortunately that’s exactly what Logitech will be selling with their initial box. If they go this route, it must seamlessly work with any device it connects to. It needs to know everything about your service and every capability your box offers. It also must not paste its UI over top of the original boxes UI. It needs to make things simpler, not more complicated.

They also need to get something like Hulu available on the device. Hulu knows not to get involved with the TV or face starvation brought on by old ties between the content creators and content providers. So it’s highly unlikely they will get them so Google needs to find a way to offer their own Hulu like service. They need to find a similar balance that Hulu offers with providing on demand TV while keeping the content providers happy. It shouldn’t be an issue as most people want to watch the show right away. With a service like Hulu you have to wait till the next day to watch. Most people want to be in the conversation at work the next day on what happened last night on TV, so they need cable. On demand TV is great for catching up when life happens and you can’t be at home. Allowing you to catch up so you can watch next weeks broadcast may actually keep people watching, which is a benefit to broadcasters.

The next step is to create a powerful yet intuitive remote to control the experience that anyone can use. There needs to be something unique about the remote and that uniqueness needs to be persistent across all Google TV boxes to keep the experience consistent. Using your smartphone is merely a novelty and in practice will not always be useful.

The other important factor is making sure they have lots of content geared towards TV users. They need to truly make TV interactive, much like what Major League Baseball is doing online and on the iPad. If the majority of content creators, providers and hardware manufacturers actually work together Google could really offer something new to TV.

Google TV will start slow and will probably lack a lot of stuff to truly make it the killer device it could be. I don’t see it taking off till it becomes open source in 2011. After that assuming a lot of manufacturers adopt it as opposed to writing their own UI, they may have something. It has worked for Google in the smartphone space plus just like TV they are built around advertising so if anyone can do it, it’s Google.

Dave Loft

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