Google launched the Google TV minisite yesterday ahead of the official launch. It answered a bunch of questions, but not all of them. In some ways, it brought up some topics I previously hadn’t thought about as well like if it will playback content from local network shares and what content partnerships are in place.
While it’s clear that Google is on the right path, I’m not entirely sure Google TV is going to be the revolutionary hero we all want it to be. Right now it doesn’t feel like anything special. Unless of course you want to Twatter from your HDTV while streaming Netflix. I’m not sold yet.
The TV world is a crazy place and I have no idea how it really works. One thing is clear in that everyone wants to make money on their own terms. The networks, content providers, and studios don’t care about you and I. Nope, they’re in the business to make money. That’s it.
Google TV hasn’t officially announced any content partners yet. However, there are some networks prominently shown on the just-launched Google TV minisite: CNN, TBS, TNT, CNBC, Cartoon Network and HBO — all Time Warner stations. Important channels no doubt, but that list is missing stations from the other major media outlets of Walt Disney, News Corp., Viacom, and NBC Universal.
Now, it’s entirely possible that Google simply used the Time Warner stations per some random content agreement on the minisite. Other networks might be on board, but perhaps wanted to keep the partnership under wraps until the official unveiling. Whatever the case is, Google TV will be severally limited with the backing of just one media outlet.
How can Google instantly alienate the enthusiast crowd? Restrict local playback to only from Android devices. There’s no mention of any sort of local network playback anywhere on the Google TV minisite besides the Fling feature that allows content from an Android phone to be flung onto the Google TV.
A good chunk of Google TV’s target demographic downloads content. That’s impossible to deny and while it looks good on a mission statement to limit the playback of pirated material, it looks awful on the bottom line.
But it isn’t just pirated material either. Google TV seems impressive in many ways, but the new Apple TV has it beat in the content sharing department. The minisite only lists the capability to share photos through online media services like Flickr and Picasa, not from a local share besides an Android phone. This could be a big hole Google TV’s strategy.
Pretty interfaces are easy to make, but they require good hardware. I’m nervous that the first generation Google TV boxes like the Logitech Revue will not be powerful enough to provide a smooth experience. The UI outside of the homescreen just feels like Flash and anyone that’s used a TiVo Premiere can attest that Flash makes for poor user interaction on sub-par hardware.
Now I could be wrong. Blip.tv’s Google TV app apparently uses HTML 5, which would no doubt be better suited for the task. But with or without Flash, Google TV better be as smooth as Apple TV or Boxee right out of the gate.
Part of me feels that Google TV is the next big thing. This part is saying that it will do to the TV industry what the iPhone did to the smartphone market — that it will revolutionize how we consume content in the livingroom. But then logic kicks.
The cable industry is ruled by only a few players and that doesn’t include Google. This revolution I dream about probably won’t happen on Google’s terms, but rather Comcast’s and Motorola’s as the former providers the content while the later controls the user experience. Until those two companies jointly buy into Google’s ideals, Google TV will be nothing more than a hobby and simply another box to sit alongside the cable box, Wii, DVD player, and a proper local media playback device like a WD TV.
You can’t tell me that Google TV will be ad-free. Ads are a huge revenue source for Google and you can bet that they will be present somehow within Google TV. I can’t find a single one on any of the Google TV screenshots or video demos but that doesn’t really mean anything. It’s not like Google would show-off the dirty side of Google TV anyway.
I fully expect Google to out a sort of enhanced advertisement like iAd that leverages the larger screen. Ads will be in Google TV somehow but hopefully they will done in a way like TiVos where they’re unobtrusive.
So far no one has successfully brought Internet video to the big screen in a way that satisfies consumers and content markers. I’m not entirely sure even Google can accomplish that task. However, Google TV feels like it’s a big step forward in the right direction.