Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Future of TV: Google?

This month Google has released a new video highlighting their new proposition for revolutionising television.  It seemed like only yesterday that Apple were making big noises about their TV proposition. Michael Gartenberg (Engadget) has blogged about this Apple/Google assault on TV here.

Quick Tour - Google TV
(Image: Chris Messina, 2010, Flickr)

In case you didn't already know Google are planning on releasing their take on TV in two forms: a new internet-enabled set-top box which plugs in to your high definition TV as well as hardware deal with Sony (TV) and Logitech (peripherals). The hardware is due for imminent release and will be based on the Android software which runs on many smartphones and upcoming tablets.  It will also use a version of the Chrome browser.

I've embedded the latest video below, so go ahead and take a look.

Right.  Did that make you want to buy one? Me neither. I'm not sure I'm going to benefit from having stocks and shares info displayed down the side of my screen.  I'm also not sold on going to my TV to read Twitter - personally I like to use Twitter on a smaller device whilst watching TV.


However, there did seem to be a number of interesting features hinted at in the video.  The presence of the search bar that should help web-TV users locate audio/video content on the web and quickly display it on the screen could be useful. Google's killer app is still its search dominance and if it can find a way to bring that to searching for TV-on-demand content then they might just oust FilmFlex (Virgin), Lovefilm or Sky's on-demand services.  However, I strongly suspect that Google are not going to provide their own platform for video content (other than YouTube) and will partner up with services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon in order to deliver that content.  This seems similar to the Apple TV proposition.  Come to think of it, even Microsoft and Sony are playing around with this type of delivery via the Xbox and Playstation platforms.  Suddenly, the space under the living room TV is seeming a little over-crowded.

The ability to stream audio/video content to the "best speakers in the house" (er, they would be what now - the 5.1 system or the hi-fi?) seems like a decent proposition especially when many HD TVs come with underpowered audio.  Also, the Android Marketplace seems like a great idea for providing a platform that can grow and evolve as time goes by.  There are rumours that Apple are planning the same thing with Apple TV (especially as it runs a version of iOS4 - the software that powers the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch).  But the biggest issue that needs addressing here is advertising revenue.


Google has got to where it is today by being able to harness the power of search and attach relevant targeted advertising to the several hundred million search requests it receives daily.  If Google can manage to break into the TV market place and gather information about viewing habits it would have another feather in its cap.  It could deliver real time targeted adverts to TV viewers in a way hitherto impossible for mass broadcasters.  This seems to be a logical reason why Google would want to enter the TV market place.  Who else has the power to disrupt existing arrangements between broadcasters, content makers and advertisers?  If Google are successful, they could transform the way in which advertising revenue funds the commercial television model by taking the funds needed to support investment in expensive content out of the hands of producers and broadcasters.

I'm not sure that this is such a good idea, but there's no guarantee that Google TV will actually be successful.  After all, Google has a track record of products that haven't gone on to change the world (Wave didn't transform email).  Perhaps, their TV venture may not succeed, but it's built on a platform (Android) which is already proving its worth.  The future of television looks a little cloudy from here...


Drake Sigar said...

Remember when we watched TV on the TV? Good times.

''(.)(.)'' said...

I remember it well. However, there's too many ways to watch it these days. I watch it on my mobile too.

Sean Gartland said...

Can't see this taking off to be honest. Content will be wildly erratic as companies like Hulu won't be able to offer U.S programming due to deals with other providers (Sky, BBC etc.) and U.K programming is still up in the air (Project Canvas). Add on the speed and bandwidth needed and this looks like a bust to me.

Rob said...

The sheer amount of competing services on offer seems to be a barrier to breakthrough success, unless Google can make this a very simple and intuitive plug-n-play proposition. There are already some UK-localised webTV-on-demand services running legitimately that could be co-opted into the Google TV plan. I'm thinking of Joost and SeeSaw.

As for Canvas (now renamed YouView), Avista Partners are expecting a launch within the next 6-9 months, especially as Five has re-entered the fray. It's Virgin who will pose the biggest barriers with their Ofcom complaint


Dazzler said...

Nice blog. I like the fact that Google is entering the Tv market place. As a whole android and interactive tv services would no doubt in my mind improve television for all. Entertainement, music, quick links, games, and then of course ordinary TV channels and services. Im not sure abouting investing yet, with a tv out cable from comp to tv already providing these in some way. Andriod does rock and long may it develop.

Rob said...

Thanks for the feedback Dazzler - much appreciated. I think that Google could help improve accessibility but I wonder what will happen to the way in which commercial television will get funded. BSkyB rarely commissions home-grown drama - it buys in content from overseas usually. Virgin tried (and failed) at their own TV channel. The BBC and ITV commission and find new content but the BBC is going to be squeezed with the licence fee freeze so that leaves ITV/C4/Five to commission new content. If Google starts eating into the ad market which funds these channels then there may be problems on the (distant) horizon.

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