Google's Schmidt delusional on TV again: 5 ways to end the madness

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt remains fascinated by TV. When you dig a hole...
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is talking TV again. Run screaming from your couch and remote.

Recall that Google has a fascination with TV. The search giant sees Android as a big TV player. Internet connected TVs will allow you to search and watch YouTube until you're content. When Google TV was about to launch in 2010, Schmidt marveled at how the company could bring the Internet to your TV.

Schmidt mistake No. 1. This PC as TV blunder has been made by countless technology companies. Microsoft tried it years ago with Web TV. A long line of companies followed. Apple tried the same thing to some extent, but wrapped it in an iTunes wrapper. Now Apple has a different version of Apple TV, but the story is the same. These tech guys just don't get that all we want to do is sit on our butts and watch TV. At least Apple's Steve Jobs got that TV is a wee bit different and a potential rat hole. Schmidt is still trying to force interactive TV and PC-like capability to consumers.

The beauty of TV is that it ISN'T interactive. I drool and the magic box in the living room brings me the TV. Hands down the pants like Al Bundy and a beer optional.

Over the weekend, Schmidt said that virtually all TV manufacturers will adopt Google TV, or maybe a competitor. Timeline: Five years.

Schmidt mistake No. 2. First, TV manufacturers have been torched by the first Google TV rev. Even players on the periphery were burned. Just ask Logitech. Meanwhile, it's unclear that TV manufacturers want to go Android. Why get sued like a smartphone maker when you're margins are a few points above nil anyway?

CNET's Greg Sandoval asks a simple question. Schmidt said this adoption of Google TV would occur within five years. That certainly is big talk, but is there anything to back it up?

Short answer: There's nothing to back Schmidt's rambling up. So what can Google do to get this TV thing right? Here are five suggestions as a public service---and to keep Schmidt from digging a larger TV hole.

  1. Stop making bold statements. Let's get real here: Few TV types really trust Google. These Hollywood execs want to control their digital destiny and are wary of Google and Apple gaining too much power. Schmidt yapping about how TVs will all have Google software doesn't exactly scream valued partner to content companies.
  2. Hide the engineers. Google has an engineering culture. The company thinks algorithms. Google is also left brain. TV is a right brain exercise. Jobs gets that reality, but hasn't quite figured out TV anyway.
  3. End the idea that TV manufacturers are the avenue to the living room. Google talks about Internet-connected TVs and wants Sony to stay as a partner. Why? Google just bought Motorola Mobility, which happens to split the set-top box market with Cisco. Schmidt should have said that Google TV will be on half the set-top boxes in America in five years. That statement is a no-brainer. Google bought Motorola and got Google TV distribution as a side benefit.
  4. Pay up. Schmidt said that he will work to get broadcast networks to change their minds about Google TV. TV networks have kept Google TV from integrating their Web content. As Sandoval noted, there's only one way Google will get networks to change---license content or challenge them in court. It's unclear that Google wants to get into Netflix-like content licensing. And Google has enough lawsuits---Android mostly---to worry about.
  5. Make TV a hobby. Google is trying too hard on the TV front. Schmidt talks and the company puts a TV in its collective mouth. Notice how Apple defused the pressure. TV is a hobby for Apple---at least until it makes its own TVs.

This five step recovery plan isn't brain surgery. Let's hope Schmidt takes us up on TV rehab.

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