News Analysis: Just a few short days ago, the sky appeared to be falling on Google TV, the Web and channel-surfing hybrid service based on Google’s Android operating system and accessed by Google’s Chrome Web browser.
First, the majority of reviews throughout the week have been downcast, with many testers proclaiming Google TV unpolished, buggy or downright inaccessible from some Websites.
Then came this report from the San Francisco Chronicle with a headline that originally proclaimed Google TV “troubled” and shunted off to YouTube, presumably to wither and die.
Citing what are no doubt TV industry curmudgeons troubled by Google TV, the Chronicle attributed the move to “negative reaction to the new Internet television service among major media companies.”
Television networks ABC, CBS and NBC are shielding programming on their Websites from Google TV, concerned that the service does not adequately protect their programming from piracy.
However, a Google spokesperson told eWEEK there is no correlation between ABC, CBS and NBC blocking Google TV users from accessing their full-length Web shows and Google TV’s migration to YouTube, which was reorganized Sept. 17.
Google TV’s move to YouTube happened quietly after the reorg, but before the service launched on Logitech Revue and Sony Internet TVs and Blu-ray players within the last two weeks.
A Google spokesperson told eWEEK Google TV has always reported into YouTube — and its reporting structure has remained largely unchanged.
“Just like any rapidly growing organization, it is important for YouTube to evolve and grow to ensure further success in the future,” the Google spokesperson said.
And it looks like part of that future success involves Google TV. Some might see this as a failure for Google TV, that it needs a strong business unit responsible for Google’s $2.5 billion run-rate in display ad sales.
It’s not a banishment, but a sign that Google is looking to extend YouTube as a real broadcast medium with unpolished and professional content alike. Others are finding the same.
The YouTube reorg included the creation of a group focused on partnerships with content creators, led by former Google TV alumnus Dean Gilbert.
Google TV Healthy with Leanback
On Oct. 28, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley said he was stepping down, leaving Salar Kamangar to oversee the Website’s day-to-day operations.
Google has been haunting Madison Avenue ad agencies to demonstrate Google TV, with YouTube Leanback as the main draw, according to the New York Post.
eWEEK tested Google TV extensively and concluded YouTube Leanback is the defining application for a service that aims to serve Web content on the big screen.
When you watch it, you get the sense that you are watching a B-roll of music and comedy shorts not unlike the way MTV and VH1 aired videos before they became bogged down in feckless reality TV.
Except that it is fed by the Internet, not broadcast feeds, and is powered by a fast Web browser and the world’s fastest search engine. Type anywhere on the screen and you can search YouTube, or hit the pause, play, rewind or fast forward buttons to maneuver around the application.
This is a strength of Google TV, not a hindrance, no matter what sort of spin talking head TV types serve.
Now, about the negative reviews. Google has released so many beta products over the years that it has blurred the line of what is beta and what is finished. Gold code Google TV isn’t, making it a reviewer’s dream for criticism.
It’s actually quite good for switching between TV and Web apps; going from ABC to Facebook or from Fox to Twitter, or from DVR on AT&T U-Verse to Wikipedia is a breeze.
Yes, ABC, CBS and NBC all appeared at different times to be blocking their Website content from the service. And you can’t access Netflix.com from Google TV (you can access your Netflix instant queue from the Netflix app on Google TV).
The service will improve over time. Android 2.1 will give way to Android 2.2 and 2.3. Chrome 5.0 will yield to Chrome 7. Hulu ABC, CBS and NBC will broker deals with Google to get their content on Google TV.
Given the steep competition from Apple TV, Roku, Boxee and other services, Google TV isn’t a lock for success in the entertainment. But proclaiming the service as troubled or dying under YouTube is premature.