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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

  11. Two of the killer apps may be video chat in front of TV, and gaming. It could have hundreds of free or cheap games to play just like on a console (perhaps with your phone as gamepad). Take a look at this to get an idea:

  12. 5 Ways to Save Google TV: Video « Web Connected TV | Web Connected TV Monday, December 20, 2010

    [...] more: 5 Ways to Save Google TV: Video « Read more from Google TV ces, coming-out, coming-out-party, device-unveilings-, google tv, [...]

  13. In my ideal world Google buys TiVo and blends the two boxes together. The simplicity and user interface of TiVo with the extendability of apps would be the perfect box IMHO.

  14. Excellent analysis, Janko.

    Google has made a significant strategic and tactical error in its rollout of Google TV, one it has made before – most notably with Google Books. Steeped in its somewhat asocial engineering-mindset milieu, Google often forgets the commercial world is ruled by social principles.

    Old TV Media leaders are deeply afraid that their revenue models are doomed and are increasingly desperate in their attempts to stave off innovation of which they are not a part. Google TV was presented to them as excitingly disruptive with no substantive accompanying efforts to bring in Old Media as collaborators and few attempts to reveal experimental models of how the Google platform could offer new ways to profit from offering exquisitely more personalized TV viewing experiences to significantly broader audiences. A strategic blunder, born less out of arrogance than simply cognitive dissonance. Think Spock & Dr. McCoy.

    The tactical misstep was putting the Logitech controller cart before the open Android app developer community horse. Google’s vision of a converged TV world is sound, but to really help quell Old Media’s fears, Google should have let thousands of developers start planting the seeds of their fertile imaginations. The resultant bouquet of early innovative applications would likely have proved more compelling in wooing the big-4 networks than all the passionate pitches proffered by Google’s tech geeks.

    Google TV has not lost its opportunity to succeed. The precious time it has lost will be well worth it if Google can take the next major step in its maturation and gracefully open itself up to collaboration with media innovators who, though not necessarily up to their speed in engineering, are superior artful masters of the exquisitely social medium of television & film.

  15. Well these dyas social media is what evryone is involved woith..hence its necessary to compete with such mediums also…

  16. Google’s Big Problem: It Ain’t What You Think: Tech News « Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    [...] Those problems are behind the issues the company is facing with some of its products. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Google was postponing the release of Google TV software, which in turn would delay its partners’ plans to show connected televisions at the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 (CES). Google TV software has come under criticism for being too complex. [...]

  17. None of what is listed in this article is the most important thing Google needs to do.

    The biggest thing of all is: advertise.

    Joe Blow on the street has never heard of Google TV, but I’m sure he knows what Tivo is, and knows what Apple TV and Xbox 360 are. Boxee and Roku are gaining ground, too. All these companies do a much better job than Google of getting the word out about their products.

    Which is pretty ironic for a company that generates so much of its livelihood from ads.

  18. I like my Google TV allot, however the main drawback is that its designed with a single user in mind. Everything that happens on the TV is now associated with my Google account.

    This means when my gf watches her shows on YouTube, Google now thinks I will like them. Her subscriptions are now my subscriptions… very annoying!

    1. Is there not a user profile option? Like in XBMC or Boxee? I haven’t had the chance to play with a GTV yet, but I find it hard the believe they overlooked the fact that multiple people watch the same TV!

  19. I don’t know whether some of those options are even *possible*. You talk about killer apps, and chord cutting – but Google has always wanted to revolutionize an industry, not completely destroy and take industry over!

    What kind of killer app could the GTV have? I can think of only two kinds. The first – A cloaking app so people can view online media without being blocked. The second – games, but as you yourself said, this is not an Iphone.

  20. Google should be developed well before the system will keep costs affordable cost from customers.

  21. You made some valid suggestions for improvement but please, don’t suggest that Google TV follow Digg 4.0 and make twitter and Facebook a core part of the experience. I just can’t understand why companies think Facebook friends are going to have your tastes. Perhaps teens look forward to hearing about what’s hot from Facebook and Twitter but I have no desire to hear what Aunt Matilda or my bosses sister think are great TV shows. I am sick to death of being force fed the “wonders” of social media. I have no desire to get a Facebook page or listen to the banal drivel of Twitter.

  22. If I were my say, i would ask to decouple googleTV from devices & make it down-loadable, so that user can buy their own h/w (computer with proper video card and
    tv/tuner). And provide the following:

    a. Free EPG
    b. user’s preferences
    c. web/pic/video or anything else viewable on TV
    c. DVR
    d. online streaming (like slingbox)
    e. iphone/smartphone based remote

    etc..

    I know, boxee does lots of this things; but not everything. Now if someone wants Revue or sony, that’s his/her choice.

  23. NewTeeVee: 5 Ways to Save Google TV | Gannon Hall Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    [...] NewTeeVee: 5 Ways to Save Google TV → December 22, 2010 | View Comments [...]

  24. I believe that the best course of action for Google TV longevity is create a version that can be installed on PC’s. Enthusiasts and hobbyists will push the technology, create apps, and potentially help shape it’s future. Manufacturers can continue to include “approved” versions of the software on their devices. This model leaves no one out, fosters growth, and generates continued discussion on the product.

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  26. Can Vizio Save Google TV?: Online Video News « Monday, January 3, 2011

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  27. Google TV Hack Offers Access to Hulu, Android Apps: Online Video News « Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    [...] the full web with content playing on TV. If anything, it should be a warning call to Google to add access to the Android Market to the platform as soon as possible. GA_googleFillSlot("newteevee_ros_post_footer"); Do you like this [...]

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