Google TV is months away from launching, but it already has doubters in Apple CEO Steve Jobs and some industry analysts who believe the search engine will fail where Microsoft, Apple, Sony and several startups have failed before.
When asked at the AllThingsDigital D8 conference June 1 about the failure of today's efforts to marry the Web with TV, Jobs said the fault lay in the go-to-market strategy:
"The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everybody a set top box for free or for $10 a month, and that pretty much squashes any opportunity for innovation because nobody is willing to buy a set-top box."
"Ask TiVo, ask ReplayTV, ask Roku, ask Vudu, ask us... ask Google in a few months. So all you can do is add a box on to the TV system. You just end up with a table full of remotes, a cluster of boxes, bunch of different UIs and that's the situation we have today."
This is both true and false for Google TV, the search engine's effort to marry channel surfing with Web surfing.
It is true that those who wish to subscribe to Google TV when it becomes available this fall may buy a companion box from Logitech and a special remote to interact with it from Best Buy.
However, Jobs' implication that acquiring a new set-top box is the only way to use Google TV is false.
Sony pledged at the introduction of Google TV at Google I/O May 21 that consumers will also be able to get Google TV integrated directly in new Sony Internet televisions and Blu-Ray DVD players this fall.
Of course, consumers will still have to buy a new TV set, or a Blu-Ray player, but they don't have to buy a box as well. That might be mincing words, but it is important to sift out the truth from Jobs' generalization.
Jobs' comments could be just misdirection. The Snitch blog noted that Jobs' proclamation could be a stalling tactic akin to his past comments about not making smartphones, video players or tablets before launching the iPhone, video iPod and iPad tablet.
Indeed, if you watch this D8 clip, Jobs said the set-top box as we know it today must be rebuilt from scratch to account for interactivity between the Web and TV.