Google has never been the one to provide original content - from video and news to music and images. Google has always been about indexing that content, making it readily available to the masses and then incorporating advertising to turn it into a gold mine.
That's why, when Google chairman Eric Schmidt makes a bold statement about Google TV's future, I try to keep an open mind.
Sure, Google TV as we know it today is non-starter. The idea of bringing a keyboard and a browser to the living room is a deal-breaker - and Google should have known it, given the repeated failures of others who tried to bring the PC to the TV in earlier years. (Disclosure: I have the Logitech Revue in my living room and, aside from the Netflix and Pandora apps, it's pretty much a brick.)
But who's to say what Google TV might look like five years from now. The power of Google TV is the technology, not the actual device - and certainly not the content. And with Google now in the set-top business - thanks to that acquisition of Motorola Mobility - it's not hard to imagine that Google TV technology could make its way into homes everywhere. It's also not hard to imagine the cable guys - who want to be more than just the dumb pipe of the Internet - getting on-board with a premium service that delivers videos from Hulu, YouTube or Netflix to the customer.
Remember when TiVo was the enemy because it allowed viewers to fast-forward past commercials? It wasn't until the DVR technology started showing up in the set-top boxes that the TiVo-like concept went mainstream. Today, every cable and satellite company offers a DVR.
In many ways, TiVo and Google face similar challenges: Viewers don't understand the concept and Hollywood is scared of it. But if Google can educate viewers by offering them what they do understand - YouTube and Netflix, for example - as an introduction to Google TV, they might stand a chance on that front. Convincing Hollywood is a bigger challenge but maybe the answer is to partner with the cable and satellite guys on the hardware side and let them deal with Hollywood negotiations, something that they're old hands at.
For Google, this isn't about controlling the content - that's not what Google does. It wants to be the technology that brings it all together and presents it nice and neat in front of the user (in this case, the viewer) - a preface to selling and delivering advertisers to those same users. That's the business model and Google TV should be no exception.
Finally, it's important to remember that the target audience with the Google TV concept is not an old guy like me, the Al Bundy type who wants to be a coach potato with a remote on an NFL Sunday. It's the up-and-coming generations, those who will use on-screen interactive features to share their thoughts about their favorite shows on social media, engage in a video trash talk session during halftime or check out some friends' favorite clips.
It's not so crazy to imagine that sort of behavior when you consider that today's teens - with all that texting and Facebooking and YouTubing they do - will be full-fledged adult consumers by then.
Hmmm. Maybe Schmidt is on to something here.
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