Does Google really think the Internet, as well as its own infrastructure, isn’t up to the task of delivering Web TV? That’s the impression you might have been left with had you read any permutations of a Reuters story out of Amsterdam from a couple days […]

Does Google really think the Internet, as well as its own infrastructure, isn’t up to the task of delivering Web TV? That’s the impression you might have been left with had you read any permutations of a Reuters story out of Amsterdam from a couple days ago, which claimed that a Google exec said those very things.

Usually the story was packaged with a link-seeking headline like USA Today’s, which claimed Google and cable firms warn of risks from Web TV or PC Magazine’s Internet Not Designed for TV, Google Warns. Over an even better ominous riff: Will Web TV Kill the Internet.

Given Google’s out-front stance on topics like network neutrality and its $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube — two things that would seem at odds with such a claim — you would think such a story would set off alarm bells among editors. Instead, the story was widely picked up without any questioning.

So let us do the honors. Turns out — as we suspected — there were a few points lost in translation, at least according to Googlers we spoke to.

“Some remarks from Vincent Dureau’s well-received speech at the Cable Europe Congress were quoted out of context in news reports,” said a Google spokesperson Friday. The further background explanation from Google is that Dureau was responding to a question and was trying to address a potential bottleneck Google does see, which they say exists between Google’s own content-delivery infrastructure and the cable set-top box in your home.

Google’s infrastructure scales just fine, they said, and there is no problem watching TV on the Web. Despite what you may have read.

Giving Google the benefit of the doubt for now, it’s easy to see how Dureau’s quote in the story — “The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s (infrastructure) doesn’t scale. It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect” — could fit into the company’s claimed meaning; that since Google doesn’t reach all the way into homes (or even into the cable plant), it can’t scale across those boundaries to ensure quality of service.

Giving the Reuters writer the benefit of the doubt, it’s also easy to see how Dureau’s quotes could have been construed to mean exactly what was written. Without being there, or understanding the full context the question was asked in, it’s hard to tell exactly what bit of wisdom Dureau was trying to impart. And we know from experience, press conferences and Q&A sessions are never an exact science. So, these things happen.

But anyone with a bit of knowledge of Google’s operations should have known that something didn’t smell right — if Google were to suddenly change course on network neutrality or Web TV, it would probably pick a more prominent place and person to make the announcement, no slight to Mr. Dureau intended. What would be best, of course, would be an online video of the event, so everyone could parse the raw data for themselves. Here, we’ll allow Google to have a bit more say on the matter:

“Google’s position on net neutrality remains the same: only an open Internet that is free of restrictions will continue to provide the services that consumers demand, including advanced video service,” said a spokesperson. “We believe that cable TV providers and broadband carriers have an important role to play in providing those services to consumers in the future.”

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  1. Michael Markman Friday, February 9, 2007

    Thanks for this level-headed clarification. This seems a particularly screwy week for MSM to jump into stories that don’t pass the logic test. There have been a number over on the political side of the news, as well as tech announcements. Scoop pressure on the internets is collapsing time and deadlines beyond the point where editorial judgment can intervene. Meme chasing is getting very undiggnified.

    Some folks need to learn to relax, take deep breaths and make some phone calls before going live with nonsense.

  2. Richard Bennett Friday, February 9, 2007

    Vincent Dureau was quoted accurately, he was addressing a real problem, and Reuters put the remarks in context: Google instead offered to work together with cable operators to combine its technology for searching for video and TV footage and its tailored advertising with the cable networks’ high-quality delivery of shows.

    The issue is that OTA TV, cable, and satellite use a broadcast model – one stream per program – while Internet TV tends to use a unicast model, which is one stream per consumer. The unicast model is fine as long as Internet TV is limited to 100,000 people watching five-minute, low-def clips on YouTube, but if 20 million people want to watch Survivor on the Internet at the same time, it would collapse. That’s a mathematical fact.

    So Google proposes to build direct links from their massive server complexes to the cable systems that bypass the Internet and conform to the more efficient broadcast model. AT&T is running into problems with its U-Verse system that indicate this is a real problem, not something drummed up by the enemies of freedom who want to censor Daily Kos in order to keep the Republican hegemon in power (or whatever the cheerleaders for net neutrality regulations are claiming today.)

    Net neutrality is faith-based network engineering, and it’s encouraging to know that at least some of the engineers at Google haven’t drunk that particular Kool-Aid.

  3. Richard Giles Friday, February 9, 2007

    It didn’t pass the logic test for me, because Google’s head of TV technology would have made himself obsolete with the meaning that’s been construed.

  4. Richard Bennett Friday, February 9, 2007

    Google can still have a video business where they sell directly to Cablecos, just as ESPN does with its ESPN 360 super-custom IPTV service. Google’s head of TV technology understands the issues just fine, it’s the PR department that’s falling down on the job.

  5. I agree with Mr. Bennett in that, Google’s comments make perfect sense if Google’s real intention isn’t to confront IPTV, but to sidestep it altogether:

    “So Google proposes to build direct links from their massive server complexes to the cable systems that bypass the Internet and conform to the more efficient broadcast model.”

    Cable Television indexed and monetized by Google, baby!

    My only question is how is jumping into bed with the Cable Companies and bypassing the Internet to deliver advanced video content – not just drinking another, different kind of “faith-based network engineering kool-aid?”

    Even in this “Goo-Tube” future, The lines between the Cable Network and the Internet would invariably erode and we should remember that cable companies have virtually no oversight and are anything but “net-neutral” and “open” networks.

    Ideally, wouldn’t it be better to Innovate with IPTV than to Placate to CATV?

  6. I just visited Surewest today in Sacramento and they are offering HDTV over IP today. Surewest is the company formerly known as Roseville Telecom and offers it in areas where they have fiber to the home. Since they are a combo CLEC, MSO, ISP and have fiber to the homes it is just a matter of transporting the HDTV IP packets over their LOCAL infrastructure of a couple head ends, where the content is converted to IP, tied into their fiber network. For VoIP, HDTV over IP, inet and all the ancillary stuff like hosted mail, etc it costs $300 a month which I didn’t think was too bad of a deal considering they supply the CPE, which connects to the fiber and then distributes in the homes via a switch of some sort, and manage/upgrade it as they need to.

  7. Google rolled out the damage control team to put the best spin on Dureau’s quote.

  8. I live in Korea and we have just had what the company told us is internet TV installed. I gotta tell you, it ain’t no picnic! Our 100MB rated service was great until the installation. 2.8 MB/s p2p downloads – uploads not far behind.
    The problem is the Hanaro supplied router is killing our speed and quality! Bad configuration? Then someone ought to teach the Hanaro team how because at this time, they are still scratching their heads.
    It seems as though Hanaro has decided volume is better than quality of service, pumping as much info through as it can and eventually the right info will arrive intact.
    Picture quality is fine but the ads they run while waiting for the show to download kind drive me nuts!

  9. Vincent Dureau, the executive quoted, was just hired from OpenTV. He was the CTO there. I don’t think he was quoted out of context.

  10. Dureau was right first time – ask any network engineer – he just got slapped for telling the truth.

    The PR tried to change the discussion from “the net is broken for TV” to “our TV infrastructure is k3wl!” It may be, but that’s not what Dureau was talking about. It’s sad to see GigaOM buying the spin, and shilling for Google.

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