Five Obstacles to Google TV
Today, Google announced Google TV. This is not to be confused with Google Radio, or Google Automotive. Apple doesn't have radio or automotive yet, so far as we know; neither does Google....today. If Apple was going to be inside the Chevy Volt, it would be a guarded secret and the prototypes would be lost in parking lots.
Why would we like Google TV? Well, first there's Google's deep experience in the explosive growth of GooTube, I mean YouTube. I love YouTube. I've seen more has-been rock stars and neat videos than in any place but my local library. It's fascinating. Old TV shows that I'd love to see? Plenty of them, even though I don't watch TV much, and currently, The Office and 30 Rock is on in the living room--- and I'm NOT there. Thankfully.
Yes, there are episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Get Smart, and a bunch of shows I remember from my youth that will be fun to watch. I'll watch them when I've retired and am in a wheelchair in the nursing home. I already have all the DVDs of Monty Python, most of the Star Wars episodes, so I'm fixed, thank you. For a while, I was a director of a PBS affiliate, and love PBS shows. Those can wait, too. I know others will positively love the possibilities. Already I have emails asking me where to sign up.
Obstacle 1: There's competition that's already somewhat mature.
But wait. There's Boxee. Hulu is pretty darn cool, too. What does Google add to what's already out there? There are rumors and what Google's stated, which isn't a whole lot. And now that they've announced this intention, they've also painted a big red X that will be the easy crosshairs for other organizations to compare themselves to.
Yes, Google has comparatively infinite experience with videos, if they're less than eleven minutes long. Yes, Google knows a lot about the client side, in terms of how Chrome has been working. Add YouTube to Chrome control, and there's a new reason to make a connection between your PC or Mac and your new-ish HD TV. Or not.
Obstacle 2: Competition for your eyeballs increasing each hour.
Andy Grove, the wisened paranoid guy behind the success of Intel once said that the battle is "two eyes and twenty-four hours". He was right. Google TV must not only compete against current offerings, and those from its brighter competitors, but it, too, just like PBS, has the battle of 2-i's and 24hrs. That's all we have. Will we do picture-in-picture with Facebook and Google TV? I'm not sure. I'm still getting my mind around all of this.
Obstacles 3 and 4: Apple will try to kill it. So will Comcast and carriers.
Who would love to kill it? Everyone. Take Comcast and their soon to be acquired NBC broadcast network, and their new on-demand services. Apple will undoubtedly find a way to compete with it. Every carrier that has even the first misgiving about net-neutrality will also jump on the bandwagon. Already Comcast has put new download caps on user systems where I live. I wonder if the cap will include NBC and Comcast's demand services. Microsoft has failed in a TV connection. Set top box makers are also unhappy. You can add to the list consumers with already sagging broadband lines. Imagine three teenagers trying to do Google TV while they do homework. Or the sag in the already stanched bandwidth at airport WiFi access points. Would you sit through commercials-- and video buffering episodes?
Some of these problems would have an effect on any TV-over-broadband providers. That's one part of Apple's cleverness, being captive to a carrier that they can essentially control, as bad as they might be (yes, you, AT&T). Google would have an international appeal, however. It's a big market out there across the planet. Google already knows about the problems via YouTube in terms of localizing and media latency issues. If this becomes popular, latency issues will be exacerbated. Does your GoogleVoice call go thru, or does the video? Do we get to pick?
Obstacle 5: Google itself.
Google also handily competes against itself. It's said that YouTube doesn't make much money, and is likely a money pit. If people (remember 2i's/24hrs?) start to watch ad-supported video, then the drain of resources undertaken with YouTube go down. Google also gets to capture one more piece of your turf.
And Google has turf. Yes they have market capitalization and yes they have smart people. Will they be able to make this reliable and not embarrassing as other Google products have occasionally been? Can they sustain the effort it takes to take on iTunes and RealNetworks, not to mention Amazon, Hulu, and others? Will the product be first rate, or will we have to wait for generations and betas before we really like Google TV? It's unknown. Check back in a year.