10 Burning Questions About Google TV
Google's revelation of Google TV May 20 at the Google I/O developer's conference sparked more questions than answers, which is impressive when you consider that we know about the platform's software, hardware and retail partners.
What we know: Google TV marries Web surfing and channel surfing, much like existing services such as Apple TV, TiVo, Boxee, Roku and Vudu.
The Google Android 2.1-based platform will place a Chrome browser on Web-connected televisions and Blu-ray players, initially from Sony and set-top boxes from Logitech.
Google TV supports Adobe Flash 10.1, so users will also search for and use Internet applications from video Websites such as NetFlix, YouTube and Amazon video-on-demand to Google Picasa, Yahoo Flickr, Pandora and gaming Websites without fear of being locked out of any Websites.
TV viewers will navigate among channels and applications with a special remote control from Logitech, or from their Android 2.1 or higher phones. Intel Atom chips power the Sony and Logitech hardware. Google's Android team will also upgrade its SDK to allow developers to write apps for the service after the service launches.
The service has been optimized for the Dish Network satellite TV service, but should work with all providers when Best Buy begins selling the components this fall.
And that is a good segue to eWEEK's 10 burning questions about the service which looks to succeed where Microsoft's WebTV and Intel's Viiv failed.
1) Who Will Support It?
Google trooped up the Dish Network satellite TV provider to support Google TV, but no other representative from a service provider joined Google CEO Eric Schmidt on stage. What about content producers? What about cable and IPTV service providers such as Cox, Comcast, Time Warner or anyone else that matters in this business?
2) Whither AT&T U-Verse?
Google TV is, as we've mentioned, based on Android. AT&T weakly supports Android. The thinking is AT&T is anti-Android likely because it does not want to anger Apple, whose iPhone and iPad 3G exclusively carries. Would AT&T U-Verse hold back on Google TV for similar reasons, or perhaps because it already supports Yahoo widgets?
3) Other TV Makers
Google TV was created in such a way that users can just go to Best Buy, purchase the Logitech companion box and run Google TV on their existing televisions. But if Sony Internet TVs, which will be shipped with the Android code built in, thrive, it will put pressure on other idiot box makers to build them. Will they bend to the consumer demand?
4) How Much Will Google TV Cost?
Google has been mum on pricing for Google TV, as have been Sony, Logitech and others involved with this. eWEEK just spoke with Logitech's marketing group and they declined to provide an answer. Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling tries to work through the costs here.
How will Google inject advertising into Google TV? Google CEO Eric Schmidt said ads on Google TV devices will be delivered through Websites or TV programming. Ads could also run within Android apps, a stab at Apple's iAd platform.
6) TV Providers?
If Google decides to tailor digital ads for Google TV, how will cable providers cotton to this? Will consumers get doubled up on ads from Google and TV programming, or will the ad experience be more cohesive and streamlined?
7) Google Broadband
Perhaps Google TV is the real reason behind Google Broadband. If Google encounters resistance from cable companies or consumers are faced with unreasonable charges, would Google simply launch its own broadband service to fuel Google TV? Google would own the coverage from Mountain View to users' homes, from applications and services, to the pipes. Everything but the TV content.
8) The Finer Points That Matter
One thing we didn't hear anything about from the Google I/O presentation on Google TV was about mechanisms for controlling what children can or can't watch on the service? Will there be parental lock features to keep 10-year-olds from watching sex- and profanity-laced programs such as "Californication"?
9) Google Built It, so Will People Come?
It's exactly because Google built it that people may not come. Consider this. Google knows an awful lot about people already. Do people really want them knowing about their television habits on top of what they already know through search, Gmail, etc.? Will Google succeed where WebTV and Intel ViiV failed?
10) Apple TV Reduxe?
Apple TV is, by most counts, a service for hobbyists. If Google TV does succeed, will Apple CEO Steve Jobs be forced to double down on Apple TV to compete with Google and avoid hits to its successful iPad?