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Summary:

Google TV is postponing its coming out party at CES, according to the New York Times, with manufacturers from Sharp to Toshiba holding of on device unveilings. Google reportedly wants to spend more time on improving the product – and we go some unsolicited advice.

google-tv

Google TV devices like Logitech’s Revue set top-box were supposed to be the iPhone of Internet TV devices. Instead, they became the G1. Shunned by critics and ignored by consumers, even Google seems to realize that it needs to turn around its TV platform before moving ahead with further rollouts.

The New York Times reported Sunday that LG, Toshiba and Sharp are postponing the official unveiling of Google TV devices at CES. The trade show was supposed to be a big coming-out party for Google TV, but the company changed its mind at the last minute due to the lackluster reception of devices already running the operating system.

In the meantime, Google seems to be working on a major overhaul of the platform to address its critics. That’s good, as Google TV definitely needs a lot of improvements. In fact, I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice on how to turn this around and save Google TV.

1. Google TV Needs Simplicity

The current iteration of Google TV is far too complex, offering many layers that leave users confused on how to start. Search is at the core of the platform, but Google TV also offers an excellent TV show directory — only, there’s no link to it. You have to search for it. Then there’s a separate podcast directory, which is inexplicably linked to a personal queue. There’s also a list of shows currently on TV, but half the time, Google TV instead opens up your cable TV provider’s programming guide. Finally, there are native apps, which are kept separate from web apps. Simplifying this will go a long way toward making Google TV more user-friendly.

2. Google TV Needs Apps

Google TV Product Lead Rishi Chandra told us at NewTeeVee Live last month that the first Google TV devices purposely weren’t delivered with apps (check out my interview with him below). The iPhone, he reminded us, didn’t have apps either when it first came out. Instead, it delivered the full web, creating demand for websites that would display both on the desktop and on the small screen.

That’s true, but the current Google TV devices are no iPhone. If anything, they’re more like the G1, Google’s first Android phone. No one stood in line for the G1. It had many flaws, and it definitely wouldn’t have been capable of singlehandedly changing the web. Still, it was a decent phone, and it kept getting better, thanks to the Android Marketplace. I know this, because I owned one — and I know that I wouldn’t have bought it without apps. Google is scheduled to roll out Android Marketplace access for Google TV devices in early 2011 — but in hindsight, this should have happened much sooner.

3. Google TV Needs A Killer App

Of course, simply porting some apps from Android phones to TV devices won’t cut it. What Google TV really needs is a killer app, and there’s no one better equipped to develop it than Google. Case in point: There are an estimated 200,000 apps available for Android phones — but if you ask Android users which app they can’t live without, most will tell you in a heartbeat that it’s Google Maps with turn-by-turn navigation. What will be Google TV’s killer app? I don’t know yet, to be honest — but Google should start to test some of its ideas as soon as possible.

4. Google TV Needs to Embrace Cord Cutting

This is a biggie. Google TV is all about enhancing your pay TV experience, and as a result, the company has ignored cord cutters. Instead, it’s tried hard to play nice with broadcasters, only to see nearly all major networks block Google TV devices from accessing catchup episodes online.

Google hasn’t gotten where it is now by appeasing, but by disrupting. From GMail to Google Voice to Google Docs, undercutting other companies’ price points has always been a big part of this strategy. So why not offer TV for free? Here’s what Google should do, together with one of its hardware partners: Develop a DVR capable of recording over-the-air HD programming as well as accessing the web, then offer the monthly service for free. A product like this might put Sezmi out of business and accelerate TiVo’s demise, and it would help people to understand why they need to invest $300 in a Google TV box when an Apple TV goes for $99.

5. Google TV Needs to Be Social

This one is going to be the biggest challenge for Google, because social networking has never been part of its DNA. However, search alone doesn’t cut it anymore when you want to offer people all the video on the web, in addition to their traditional TV programming. Google TV should instead use social recommendations to tell people what to watch. Boxee has done a great job incorporating Twitter and Facebook video recommendations into its own Boxee Box. Google already a bunch of social data it could leverage in addition to these external social graphs, ranging from YouTube subscriptions to GMail contacts. Now it needs to make those work to make Google TV more user-friendly.

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  1. carlo de marchis Monday, December 20, 2010

    Please read my blog post on connected TV and social apps:
    http://cdmwebguru.blogspot.com/2010/12/problem-with-social-connected-tv.html

  2. I agree 100%. I met with leadership at Google TV ads in 2008 to try to sell them on the concept of a premium DVR with SocialTV as a free service financed with addressable TV ads. The system would be better if it was software based on a standard media center PC instead of a proprietary box. See Home computers subsidized with targeted television advertising. COMPUTER-COST SUBSIDIZING METHOD United States Patent Application 20100058378.

  3. Google TV needs to be $99 built on ARM Cortex-A9 processors instead of Intel.

    Google TV needs BitTorrent and live p2p streaming protocol support. Just enter the name of any movie, tv show, tv channel, it downloads to a USB hard drive directly connected to Google TV and for a TV channel, after few seconds of buffering, people should get at least as good quality as they can upload in real-time. Make this untraceable and unblockable, let users pirate as much they want.

    Google TV needs to either make deals with TV networks, but if that doesn’t work soon, the Flash plugin needs to be User Agent: Generic so TV networks cannot detect when their sites are accessed on Google TV, thus making all the TV networks video sites work.

    Google TV needs support for full Google Marketplace of Android and other customizations of how the Recommendations are displayed. Eventually let people use alternative algorithms for content recommendations.

  4. I’d add a few clarifications to your already good list:

    1. Google haven’t done a good enough job of selling the fact that they have open web video capability, compared to the walled garden content most other solutions have.

    2. The have tried to replicate the desktop experience too much – witness the remote control/keyboard. There still needs to be a better answer to the search and discovery of a wide range of content on TV. There are solutions out there that do this such as Vidiactive (I have an interest there) and some others. The industry needs to think a bit more creatively about how consumers really behave.

  5. Good article. I would add that the Google TV devices need to have on board storage like 1 or 2 TB drives. Or allow external drive hookups beyond FAT32. Right now on the Logitech Revue you have 5GBs of on board storage and external hook up to a FAT drive. Problem with FAT32 is that you can have max file size of 4 GBs which means you wouldn’t be able to save a 2 hr movie.

    1. @Shaun,

      Fyi, the latest Google TV update for the Logitech Revue that was pushed out last week added support for NTFS formatted external storage.

  6. Google TV is DOA.

    I said this before in may, and am saying it again.
    http://gigaom.com/video/google-tv-is-ready-to-change-the-game/#comment-484931

  7. I couldn’t agree more with your assertion that Google needs to embrace cord-cutters. I would love to have a viable option to TiVo that was extensible and didn’t charge me $120/yr for the privilege of receiving the program guide.

  8. Regarding #4: Google needs to tread carefully. I understand that previous Google products (gmail, docs, etc.) succeeded by being disruptive, but they were disruptive to competitors (Yahoo mail, Microsoft, etc.).

    You’re saying here that Google TV needs to be disruptive to channel partners — the content owners and traditional cable companies who funnel money to the content owners by the billions.

    If Google alienates those people, you can be sure they will fight tooth and nail to deprive Google TV of content. Then what will Google TV do? Give us more YouTube dogs on skateboards??

  9. Google at least has to give lip service to the notion that it’s not offering a cord-cutting platform. It has to court the networks and cable companies if it hopes to get great content that will make GTV a more attractive option than Apple TV, Netflix, Boxee, etc. There’s a lot of institutional power that can thwart Google if they don’t play nice.

  10. I disagree with Andrew. Zillion TV tried to balance the interests of Networks, MSOs, ISPs, and viewers. Google should align itself with the viewers and let the rest fight it out. See http://openivo.blogspot.com/2010/12/who-should-control-tv-advertising.html

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