The Skinny on Google TV and Why It Will Make Google Fat Money

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-16 Print this article Print

A lot of people came away from watching the Google TV presentation in person at Google I/O or via YouTube May 20 confused about what the service actually was.

As one of the thousands of people watching it from YouTube, I surely was. Thanks to spotty Bluetooth access, the two-hour plus presentation had too many technical hiccups to provide a clear picture of what the service entailed.

Even the original video hosted on the Google TV Web page here wasn't so good because it explained why people need Google TV, not what it is.

Fortunately, this video gets it right:

Note that within seconds, the speaker explain that users will be able to either buy TVs (originally from Sony) that will come with the Android code already in the sets, or just buy a set-top box to plug into the HDMI port (originally from Logitech).

That explanation is glossed over only vaguely at the 1:05 minute mark in the original video. Also, within 30 seconds, the new video shows how to search for programs with a drop-down search box, tune to and record individual shows.

Users will navigate the Web with the Chrome Web browser and create split-screen views, watching sports contests while commenting on them on Twitter.

Not in the video: the Harmony remote keypad Logitech is providing to access this stuff, though Android 2.1 phone users will also be able to access the Google TV network.

There has been no shortage of detractors from guys such as Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who admitted Apple TV is a hobby, to proclaim Google TV a dead end.

Even industry analysts, who normally reserve comment until they see how products move in the market, are skeptical.

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey offered this positive ray of light for Google TV at a time when people are condemning. It's worth mentioning for me because I agree with McQuivey's points.

These points are that, contrary to Jobs' assertion, Google TV is not in the same situation as Roku, VUDU, Boxee or Apple TV because broadband penetration is at two-thirds of U.S. households and there's enough content online to make it worth the bother of connecting the TV.

I accept this. I have AT&T U-Verse and for the past six months, I've been streaming Netflix from my laptop through my LCD TV big-screen with an HDMI cable and it's great even if the computer feels as though I can fry an egg on it.

McQuivey also says Sony's whole hog support will be a difference maker because Sony has been selling connected TVs for longer than any other TV maker and will drive this market. Perhaps, but Sony has also failed at Web TV before so I'm not sold on Sony.

Still, McQuivey's conclusion is well met:

Google TV will be a persistent interface that resides on your TV, giving you access to search functions (searching linear programming, Web video and even the general Web to get IMDB facts or background on the season finale of Glee) any time you're watching TV, not just when you switch the input.

It's a critical difference that makes Google TV unique compared to all previous attempts to "Webitize" the TV. And it's the difference that will matter at scale, thanks to TV manufacturers who will support it. And it's the difference that will matter to developers, who will want to appeal to millions of consumers through a persistent interface, not a sidekick box in the living room.

And Google will make millions off the advertising paired with Google TV just through the applications people access on their TVs, (hello, YouTube) if not from a newfangled ad approach we haven't seen yet.

I expect ads offered in applications created by Android developers for Google TV will hold great promise here.

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