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Summary:

Google’s newly announced partnership with DISH will distribute Logitech’s Google TV device and allow for limited integration with the satellite TV provider’s set-tops. But the real question is whether or not Google can sell such an act to the Comcasts and Time Warners of the world.

henhouse

The most interesting Google news this past week wasn’t hardware-related; it was the partnership Google struck with DISH Network, a sign that one of the biggest pay-TV providers just let the fox into the henhouse.

Cable operators like Comcast are a different story: They’re notorious control-freaks when it comes to consumer experience and content, and they’re not hobbled like satellite operators are when it comes to interactive services and VOD. Still, this hasn’t stopped Google; news indicates the company is pursuing integration deals with cable companies.

But will cable MSOs bite? A Google TV platform will be a tough sell, but I think after a decade-plus journey through the interactive TV desert with OCAP/Tru2Way, many MSOs are too tired and thirsty to resist what Google could offer in the form of applications and interactive services.

In my weekly column at GigaOM Pro, I outline three potential ways Google TV could integrate with cable MSO offerings:

1. Google TV, Dabbler Edition. Here we see cable MSOs slowly rolling out (their specialty, after all) Google TV sidecar bolt-ons to their set tops. This would allow them to test how consumers use the service, but wouldn’t give audiences too big a taste of the Goo(d)gle life.

2. Google TV, Sidecars for Everyone! Edition. This is essentially the DISH deal, with nationwide rollouts of sidecar boxes and light integration with the set-top UI and EPG. Chances are, services competitive with cable VOD such as Netflix would be disabled or excluded.

3. Google TV, Full Monty Edition. I think Google’s ultimate goal is to get the Google TV platform fully integrated into carrier set-tops, with a cobranded UI/EPG, availability of core Google services (like video chat) and new interactive services for consumers through an Android marketplace.

I think we’ll see deployments of the first and second items on the list above, but will cable MSOs go full monty? I have my doubts. Doing so would not only be letting the fox in the henhouse, it’d be giving the fox a knife, spoon and napkin at the dinner table.

Heck, a few years ago, who would have predicted another group of controlling, clamped-down carriers welcoming the fox over for dinner in such a big way? The iPhone changed the mobile space in that respect; now Google is hoping to pull off the same trick in the world of payTV.

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Image source: flickr user Svadilfari

  1. Better to let a Fox in than a Wolf!

    ;)

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  2. You could rewind 15 years and replace Google with Microsoft.

    But, that was different. Microsoft was basically attacking the software business of set top box makers such as General Instruments and Scientific Atlanta. Their quest was to provide the OS on what was viewed as another emerging home computer.

    Google is presenting a software play with services and creating a beachhead for additional services all aimed to collect more personal information on consumers to sell more valuable, targeted advertising.

    In addition, some services will directly disrupt core services of the cablecos. As well, Google and cablecos are probably split on Net Neutrality.

    What, besides straight access fees, would motivate the cablecos to do this? Fox? Wolf? Chicken?

    Who is in the henhouse? Is it the consumer, the home subscriber, who represent a captive audience as a home passed? Is the cableco selling the consumer (and access to their personal info) to Google?

    Or is the cableco in the henhouse and Google is going to try to drive user pull to demand Google TV services and thus, not have to pay, to get access to the consumer?

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  3. Set top boxes and wall hung flat panels don’t mix. Note that a wall hung flat panel does not have a “set top”. Let’s get AllVid so that we can completely get rid of the STB. Build GoogleTV+AllVid into the TV.

    AllVid also replaces HDMI with Ethernet. Designing a system that requires running 10.2Ghz HDMI signals 30ft is crazy. Ethernet handles the distances with ease.

    STBs + HDMI have resulted in me removing all but two TVs in my household because of installation problems.

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  4. Why doesn’t the FCC force cable companies to open up consumer hardware to market? It worked great with telephones. Got to be a way to do it & protect access to their network.

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    1. Most TVs already decode your basic, non-encrypted QAM and handle OTA HD content. For your premium content, encrypted, digital, HD stuff, Cable Cards are available.

      The cable companies have already been forced to open up. TiVo sells an alternative to the cable set top box that accepts cable cards.

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  5. Agree that the precedent set with the iPhone is analogous – but not sure that Google has anywhere near as much leverage with the cable operators as Apple did with the carriers – there’s no iPhone here…

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