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Summary:

The television business is on the cusp of the biggest technological upheaval since cable TV emerged. With that in mind, we examine the leading contenders’ strategic positioning, relative strengths and weaknesses & provide the early line on their odds of success in the connected TV marketplace.

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With hundreds of millions of connected TVs and set-top boxes expected to ship worldwide over the next five years, the television business is on the cusp of the biggest technological upheaval since the introduction of cable TV.

We discuss the current contenders in this connected TV sweepstakes in a new report at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).
The big guns: Google, Apple, and Microsoft
Leading the rush are established platform providers Google, Apple and Microsoft. Each is pursuing a radically different strategy, however, as they seek to leverage their respective strengths in web technologies and the digital living room.

With Google TV, an Android-based platform built around the Chrome browser, Google hopes to establish search as a significant modality for content discovery on TV so it can extend its search-based advertising business to the living room. It also plans to extend the Android apps ecosystem to its connected-TV platform.

Apple is moving more gingerly than Google. We believe that its recently launched Apple TV set-top box is merely a down payment on what a broader effort to extend its App Store platform to the living room. The company will likely combine in-home and mobile access to video content across multiple Apple devices.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has already built an extensive online network for video delivery in Xbox Live. Now it is investing in gesture-control technology, such as Kinect, as it seeks to create new ways for users to interact with web-connected devices. James Baldwin, CTO of Microsoft’s Media Platforms division claims that gesture control is blurring the lines between games, social networking and movies and TV content.
The upstarts: Roku, Boxee, and Vudu
While the established platform providers have the inside track, they are joined by a number of startups, led by Roku, Boxee and Vudu. Roku pioneered the use of embedded apps in a set-top box to deliver streaming video to the television, even if the TV itself was not connected to the Internet. It now finds itself in a face-off with Apple TV.

For bringing streamed video content to the TV, Boxee is the current leader among browser-based platforms. Its free software was designed originally for TV-connected PCs and laptops, but the company is now rolling out a set-top box with its software embedded. It now finds itself facing off against Google TV.

Vudu began as a set-top box but now markets its software as an embeddable apps platform and movie VOD service for connected CE devices. Recently acquired by Wal-Mart, it’s a wild card that could upset the plans of Apple and Google.

Some TV set manufacturers are getting directly involved, developing a software platform for their connected displays. Most prominent among these is Samsung. Given its market share in the TV industry, as well as mobile handset market, Samsung’s vertically integrated apps platform has to be considered a contender.

Like Microsoft, Sony has also built an extensive online network around its video game console, the PlayStation 3, which it has expanded to include downloadable movie and TV content. The PlayStation Network could provide Sony with a solid foundation from which to launch a broader assault on the digital living room. But so far it has not attempted to extend the reach of the network beyond its gaming platform.

Read the full report here.

Image source: flickr user James Thompson

  1. Paul, we just wanted to add our name to the debate. Our lightweight CloudTV platform is currently in 5 million STBs, and our goal is to bring CloudTV to CE devices in 2011.

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  2. I’m wondering how many developers will turn their attention away from smartphones to start working with “Connected TV”.

    My software company builds apps for the Web and for Mobile devices and we will certainly be giving Internet TV plenty of attention over the next several months.

    Brett Miller
    http://www.customsoftwarebypreston.com

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  3. [...] from an OS fragmentation that’s slowing app development and deployment. This one feels like an OS war to me, as most of the middleware players are names that are unfamiliar to web or game [...]

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