I know that CES is still a week away, but there have been some big news surrounding Google TV of late that I thought we might compile to demonstrate the hazards of reaching into the unknown and attempting to carve out a niche for a new type of product. As we all know, there have been numerous attempts to smoothly combine web and TV together but they have all pretty much failed. Now Google is stumbling about with its Google TV product and reined things in to regroup.
The Timeline of Google TV
March 2010 - Rumors of Google TV begin to circulate en masse.
- May 20 - Google officially announces project at I/O
- May - Sony jumps on board with gear announcements
- October - ABC, CBS and NBC begin blocking Google TV from accessing their online content (a ridiculous move if you ask me)
- November - DISH Network hooks up with optimized user interface
- December 10 - First Google TV interface update for bug fixes and interface changes.
- December 20 - Google asks partners to not feature Google TV at CES 2011
- December 28 - Logitech says nothing wrong with Revue, will show at CES 2011
- December 28 - Next Google TV update delayed.
So What's Really Going on With Google TV?
It seems like there are several things going on here.
First off, broadcasters are banning the application from accessing their online video content. An odd thing to do considering if you've got any type of media server software, you can access it without problem. In fact I have been visiting with my father this week and have watched content from both Hulu and CBS.com through his media server application. How that is any different from Google TV is beyond me.
Blocking their content is amazingly narrow-minded and seems like some sort of illegal business practice based on discrimination. Is not Google TV simply a web browser? The fact that it's on your TV is a moot point as many people know how to string an HDMI cable from their computer to their TV to watch online content on the biggest screen in the house.
If those same broadcasters then decide that they want money from Google in order to allow their content to be shown on the platform, does that not then amount to extortion and anti-competition policies which should put them squarely in the sites of government agencies?
After all, that content is freely available to all other browsers and media servers, is it not? Does this mean that they will then start blocking others from accessing it? How about Internet-connected TVs from LG, Samsung and Sony? Perhaps Internet-connected Blu-Ray players? I mean, if they're going to block one home media server then they should block them all, or else it definitely looks fishy and consumer protection agencies should certainly be looking into it.
Other, more forward-thinking broadcasters, have partnered with Google like Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal, HBO, Netflix and Amazon. Android apps are in the works, but they simply have not shown up in large numbers like Google was probably hoping.
Second, it seems that Google rushed the product to market in order for it to be available for Christmas. Did they not learn from the gaming industry? That just makes for sh*t products and poor sales. Well, it certainly seems like they have learned it now. As far as I am concerned, their request to partners to not show Google TV products at CES 2011 was an admission of fault. They realized the interface wasn't ready. Partly due to reviewers calling it things like cumbersome, half-built and "big on potential" but not quite "ready for prime time."
This is obviously due to the fact that they announced it in May and released it in November. Sure, they had certainly been working on it prior to announce, but they did not put enough into it prior to release. They've already released one update and another is in the works. That second update was now delayed which screams major overhaul to me. I imagine they're going to bring out a whole new interface when this next update rolls round.
Third, partner support has been fairly limited. Google expected a lot of content and application support for the product and has yet to see that all come to fruition. Some Android apps are available for the platform but it just doesn't seem like it's the flood that Google was expecting.
Finally, there are major hardware issues. Not necessarily problems, but obstacles. Of these the major one is price. The need to buy hundreds of dollars of extra gear to use Google TV is a major hurdle for consumers. On top of that there's also the fact that you need a whole keyboard to use the service. Even the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 learned that you can make a decent interface for media without the need for a full hardware-based keyboard. So my question is, what the heck was Google thinking?
The Internet TV/Google TV Prediction
Many have already written off Google's attempt at merging the web and TV. Some did so before the product even came to market citing things like the old Microsoft Web TV and other failed projects that attempted to do the same thing. Others stated that Apple TV would bury Google TV even though the products are totally different.
However, Internet and the TV will merge. Hardware manufacturers know this and have been including Internet connectivity in their TVs, Blu-Ray players and set-top boxes. It's not a question of if, but when. Samsung has already seen this and created a one-stop-shop for video in Spain that allows users of Samsung mobiles, computers and televisions to access media with just one login.
Other manufacturers are doing much the same, building Internet connectivity into their products and looking at putting together services to offer content to end users.
Still, this could just create a disorganized mess of services and products, each that requires specific hardware to access content instead of making the content platform agnostic and therefore allowing that content to be viewed by the widest possible audience. Google TV could have been that service but broadcasters have failed to see how the building of an app that allowed viewers to get their content quickly and easily would benefit them, they have applied double-standard by allowing viewers to access the content freely via some media servers and browsers but not by Google TV. It basically has shown the depths that their greed runs and how hard they are attempting to hold onto money that is slipping through their fingers. If they would just open their eyes to the possibility the future of Internet TV holds, they might be much happier. Of course, these are TV execs we're talking about and they have a track record that shows they don't make the best decisions ever.
I doubt Google is ready to give up Google TV just yet. Even Google Wave got a couple rebuilds prior to it finally being canceled by Google. So we can expect a couple more tries to get it right before it gets sent to the very small storage area for Google failures. The problems they need to solve are:
- Price - Too costly for most consumers
- Usability - A full keyboard for my TV? Why not just use a PC?
- Content - App builders and broadcasters seem to need more motivation yet which is probably due to poor sales and uptake on the part of consumers which is in turn based on the other problems.
If they can overcome those problems they could reach the lofty goal of merging TV and web, if they can't all those Logitech Revue and other Google TV hardware units will find their way to the landfill holding all those Atari 2600 E.T. cartridges.