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Google links up with Dish Network; Opening gambit against Apple TV?

Reuters and the Wall Street Journal announced that Google and Dish Network Corp have teamed up to develop a new set top box experience using Google's new Android software operating system.
Written by Doug Hanchard, Contributor on

Google applied for a Department of Energy license and was approved. Could an FCC television broadcast license be next? Reuters and the Wall Street Journal announced that Google and Dish Network Corp have teamed up to develop a new set top box experience using Google's new Android software operating system. Sam Diaz writes;

Linking Web content and traditional TV programming into a searchable database for viewing is a smart idea. Eventually, TV programming will be funneled through the Internet instead of cable and satellite systems. Viewers will need a way to not only find programming but discover new ones, as well. I imagine search will be one of those new ways of discovering programming.

Sam points out that why the agreement between the two is unclear. Diaz is right, the details are thin in the Reuters / Wall Street Journal article;

It allows users to search content from Dish as well as websites such as YouTube, and to personalize the lineup of shows.

More set-top boxes and TV sets with Internet access are becoming available to consumers including a new Web enabled device from TiVo Inc, the set-top box maker. Dish's sister company EchoStar also makes set-top boxes but together with Dish has been caught up in a long and potentially expensive patent dispute with TiVo.

Future Apple and Cisco Competitor?

There could be another reason why Google has entered into the TV set top market. In a search of FCC records (www.fcc.gov), no applications identifying Google as an applicant were found. Who else competes in the TV set top box market? Cisco for one, it bought Scientific Atlanta in 2005 for $6.9 billion. The strategy back then was to be entrenched in the triple play market - Internet Access, Voice and TV - all through I.P. connectivity. Five years later, mass adoption of convergence still appears years away.  Google could be identifying specific market trends and potentially angling to compete with Apple TV as the primary reason they signed an agreement with Dish. Apple and Google are converging in several markets such as mobile phones. Apple, famous for rich media performance products,  no longer worries about Microsoft as an arch enemy. It may have a new nemesis, one that is going to be in their face - perhaps literately - with Google's entrance into the set top box market.

Google could be of the view, it is the analytics of the content the audience is watching. This would enable intelligent marketing and advertising streams (and some content such as Youtube) to be downloaded to the set top box and viewed. Google would not be concerned with the network infrastructure or programming to capture market audience and thus advertiser revenue. Google announced it will enter the broadband market to field test rich media content over a Gigabit home broadband network and has the financial resources to be a national ISP - if it wanted too. It is still too early to tell what Google's long term broadband product and services strategy is,  but it does involve voice and internet content management.

Companies like Apple will have to remain aggressive in maintaining their IPTV market share. Apple TV may have to release iPod and iPad services to its Apple TV offering, creating a bundled set of products and services and look for a partner to interlink iPhone along the way.

Microsoft developed the Mediaroom IPTV platform and experienced mixed results to date. Bell Canada's IPTV strategy in 2007  initially was co-developed with Microsoft. In February of this year, Bell Canada announced it would use Microsoft Mediaroom across eastern Canada. AT&T has faired slightly better with 1.3 million Mediaroom subscribers and has approximately 20 providers using it.

Apple TV may find itself squeezed out by the gorillas in the room this year and Google wouldn't mind that one bit. Perhaps Apple and Cisco should create an alliance before Google and Microsoft become the two primary players in the setup top box market. It also might save the taxpayers another round of fights with the FTC and State attorneys filing antitrust cases having three strong players in the market rather than just two weaker competitors. Convergence of devices, media and broadcast media is coming soon even if you don't want it. Google maybe forcing it to the next step. Exhibit A - Comcast's purchase of NBC Universal may be the tipping point that ignites everyone to find dance partners (Yes plural) very soon.

Additional resource: Google TV search: DISH partnership=convergence

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