Friday, May 21, 2010

How Google TV will potentially effect the publishing world; Android OS used allows for apps on your television

Most media reports of Google's introduction of their new TV project concentrated on the major players Google had managed to line-up, as well as the audacity of the search giant to enter so many fields at once.

But Google TV was introduced at the company's developer conference because in the end that was the audience most appropriate for the news.
The reality is that a device that allows you to more easily find the sit-coms and reality shows the networks current serve up as entertainment is hardly earth shaking. The addition of Google's browser, Chrome, is certainly news. But people have been wondering for years why Apple hasn't added this functionality to its Apple TV. Instead, Apple crippled its own product and now must watch as Google creates the kind of product many have wanted from Apple. (Though maybe this will finally free up Apple to improve its own product and line-up its own partners -- there is certainly plenty of room left of another option here.)

For publishers, the real significance of Google's announcement is that Google TV will run on the Android platform, and will, therefore, be able to run Android apps.

In the story that appeared in the New York Times this morning, the word that app will be able to be run on Google TV was almost a throw-away line.

"Devices running Google TV will also be able to run applications written for Android phones and will feature Google’s Chrome Web browser," the Times story read.

But as Apple found out with its iPhone, the introduction of third party apps was the game-changer -- the thing that turned a cool new smart phone into a major new and profitable business. Apps are where its at in modern computing -- and publishing.

For television manufacturers like Sony, marrying up their products with Google was a no-brainer -- frankly, they had no choice. Television sets, like it or not, are simply giant displays and those inputs in the back were no barrier to connecting laptops and other devices to the screens to make them act like computer monitors. (Microsoft has been using the ability of Windows 7 to stream content as a major sales point.)

With customers now streaming Netflix movies to their computers, iPads and even mobile phones, the next logical move would be to stream them to the devices already in the family room. For Netflix, the days of mailing CDs is almost over.

So what else will people view on that 42 inch HD screen sitting in the family room? Why not the products of newspaper and magazine publishers?

Since Google TV will be able to run mobile apps, the next step will simply be to either optimize those apps made for smaller screens, or better yet, create new apps that are new "networks" all based on your print or web brands.

For the big four networks, this is Armaggedon. Competing against all those cable channels has proven hard enough, but competing against thousands of app "channels" may be the final blow. And don't you think Google believes this is a way to enter the television advertising market?

There will be lots of hurdles to overcome before we get there. For instance, if you create an app loaded with video (logical) will the TV set with Google TV, or the Logitech companion box, have hard disk space to store that app? In the future, will we be comparing one television set against another the same way we compare laptops: hard disk space, speed of the process, and the like.

Unlike the iPhone OS which currently allows developers to create apps for the iPhone, and now the bigger screened iPad, the Android platform is still stuck in three inch screen smart phones. But by the end of the year we will likely begin to see Android-based tablets (won't we?), and then the jump to larger displays won't seem like such a leap.

YouTube video from demonstrating the use of a
mobile phone as a remote for Logitech's Google TV companion box.

I will admit that I was caught a bit off guard by the word that Google was entering the TV business in this way. Back in March articles appeared such as this one which talked about how Google was partnering with Sony and how Apple had blown it. In retrospect, the article get many things right, including the fact that by running Android Google TV could handle apps.

But the article also talks about how Apple was not able to line-up deals with the networks for its own Apple TV and that was why they couldn't develop the product. But in all the partnerships announced yesterday were any of the partners broadcasters? No. Google has done an end-round. The broadcasters aren't even part of the discussion -- they are simply the ones providing the content that can be searched and found using the new device.

Just as many are questioning the future of radio because of the rise of Interent streamed 'radio', it is easy to see that one day one will be hard pressed to see the difference between 'television' programming that comes in over the airwaves (or cable lines) and television programming received through the Internet. For the broadcasters they will now be competing with all other media forms that can be used through the Internet or via applications. The days of the television being the exclusive playground of the broadcasters is definitely over.