20 May, 2010

Money for Nothing (I want my Google TV)

No, the Internet Giant is not changing the vibe of the Dire Straits rock classic, but it is intent on being a new force in Television. At Google's (GOOG) I/O Conference today, the company announced its foray into the small screen world with Google TV. An eco-system of Internet enabled Television and Set-top boxes running the Android operating system and Chrome web browser.

Now, unlike previous Google announcements or releases, which many times reduce themselves to the happy-go-lucky whims and musings of the techie elite, i.e. lack any foundations in the business realm, this one is different.

With Android taking a strong position in the smartphone race, adding handsets and carriers every calendar quarter, and Chrome becoming the fastest growing browser on the Internet today, Google's in a position to bring partners on board with compelling offerings. Add to that, Google's ability to target advertising, and its willingness to share the honey pot, it's no wonder some big names jumped into Google TV. Sharing the stage with Google today were Sony (SNE), Intel (INTC), Adobe (ADBE), Logitech (LOGI), Dish Network (DISH) & Best Buy (BBY).

What Google TV is trying to be, is a solution to a problem that has plagued the Television world since the invention of the TV Guide. Program interfaces are and have always been atrocious, to a point where some cable system guides are almost unusable. When guides were only in print, hard to ask for much from a little magazine, but in the digital age to still be having this software problem is a black eye for the technology staples that make up the Cable & Satellite Industry.

Cell Phone interfaces had much the same problem, because there never was a need to innovate, and customers just accepted that using a phone was awful. It took Apple's (AAPL) iPhone to showcase what couple be possible when something is designed with the user in mind. And from that Phoenix, have risen many clones and competitors, the best of which arguably is Google's Android. By porting Android into Integrated Televisions from Sony and set top boxes from Dish and Logitech, all running on Intel's Atom line of processors, the goal is to move TV forward for the new Internet & Application age of today. Apple's iTunes-linking set top product AppleTV has been largely overshadowed at the company by the innovation and successes within the iPhone and iPad businesses, which has opened up a first-mover advantage and opportunity here for Google.

With Android being the platform for Google TV, the App Marketplace is also available and its library of 50,000 applications. Granted going from tiny cell screen to HDTV will likely require a majority of those apps to be re-written, but that base of developers is a key for the platform to gain traction, it'll also help if Sony sells a boat load of TVs.

A few key tidbits of the Google TV system include:
-> Ability to search across television guides and the Internet for television shows and films. This includes PVR functionality for future programming.

-> Ability to have television and the web in picture in picture mode, allowing Sports fans to look up box scores as the game is in progress.

-> Inclusion of popular social networking applications like Twitter or Facebook streams for currently watched programming.

-> Android devices can be used as remote controls.

-> On the fly Closed Caption Translation using Google's Translate engines.

Gizmodo has had coverage of the entire presentation here. (Link)

All in all an announcement is plenty of potential, a reasonable time line to market and a step in the right direction for the future of Television technology. Oh, and for Google investors, an advertising opportunity in that tiny sliver of the market, Television.

Disclosure: Author is long GOOG, AAPL