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Summary:

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt recently said that the company’s TV platform will soon dominate the CE market. I was initially underwhelmed by the recent system update, but now I have to say that I agree with Schmidt. Here are five reasons Google TV will be huge.

google tv

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt caused some raised eyebrows last week when he claimed that by next summer “the majority of the televisions you see in stores” will come with Google TV. Few took his claim seriously, some even called him insane. It’s easy to see why people wouldn’t believe Schmidt. After all, Google TV’s first iteration tanked miserably. But I’m gonna come out the lone dissenter here and say: Schmidt’s got it right.

Okay, he may have the timing wrong, but I think that Google will absolutely come out on top of this. It will dominate the smart TV world much in the same way it now dominates the smartphone world.

It took me some time to arrive at this conclusion. I liked some of the ideas behind the first iteration of Google TV, but like everyone else, was disappointed by the execution. Google’s problem was that the company and its two consumer electronics partners built early-adopter devices that were supposed to appeal to the mainstream consumer — and in turn, didn’t do right for either.

This time it’s different

I have to admit, I was once again a little underwhelmed when the new Honeycomb version of Google TV hit my review unit. Sure, it felt like a big step — for Google TV. I also got the sense that the system is much more robust and capable, and the availability of apps made a big difference. But I still didn’t find myself using it very much, and have been postponing the writing of a review for weeks now.

But then I realized: Something is different this time around. I poked around in web forums and Google+ discussions for Google TV users, and found that many are very enthusiastic. Not so much about the update as it arrived on their machines, but about the apps they could install on it and the ways they could customize their Google TV experience. These early adopters rightly realized the potential this platform offers. Combine that with its huge potential for growth in the CE space, and you’ll see why Google TV very likely wins the smart TV race.

Five reasons why Google TV will be huge

Still not convinced? Then let me break it down for you:

Google TV offers some options to customize your home screen out of the box, but users - and CE makers - can also completely replace the default launcher.

Customization. We’ve long heard rumors that both Vizio and Samsung will launch a customized Google TV experience once their devices hit the market in 2012. Think of it as something like HTC’s Sense UI for handsets, but made for the TV screen. A few days ago, I learned that this is actually something Google TV users can do as well. Want your Google TV home screen look like Ice Cream Sandwich, complete with multiple desktops? Then simply install a different launcher. Does that mean that the vast majority of Google TV users will tinker with the platform in this way? Probably not, even though I could see folks using simple apps to personalize their home screen. But what this really points to is that Google TV can be customized easily, which should give CE makers and service operators a huge incentive to use the platform.

Amazon's app store, installed on Google TV.

Third-party app stores. We can fully expect that third parties will launch their own app stores to promote apps as well as content on Google TV, which could also significantly alter the experience. A cable provider like Comcast may want to supply its customers with a selection of apps that work well with its own services, or a CE maker like Samsung may use its existing relations with developers to switch from building its own app platform to maintaining a separate marketplace. Coincidentally, Google TV hackers recently figured out that the Amazon app store already works on Google TV. Go figure.

Google TV can run multiple apps at the same time, which could be the key for interactive and social features.

Multitasking. That might sound like something you don’t want on your TV — but trust me, you do. Numerous social TV appmakers have all been trying to figure out what you are watching at any given time through apps like IntoNow that use your iPad’s microphone to listen to what you are currently watching. From a technical perspective, that’s cumbersome and awkward. The next step has been to get code to identify your viewing behavior right onto the TV or set-top box to check you in to social TV services or deliver corresponding data to the second screen. Most of these efforts have been around live TV, but Google TV is easily capable of delivering similar and possibly much more advanced experiences with VOD and Internet content. The proof is already in the pudding: Google TV 2.0 ships with an app called TrackID from Gracenote, which uses audio fingerprinting to identify music much in the same way that Shazam does. What’s neat about it is that you can run TrackID while playing a movie on Netflix or watching a video on YouTube. Google has also said that it will enable every app developer to access data on which show is currently running. Combine this kind of broadcast interactivity with app multitasking, and you could come up with all kinds of interesting and unique opportunities that will make the standalone TV widget app look outdated.

Next year will bring us a bunch of new Google TV devices.

The CE market. It’s true, most TV manufacturers already have their own Smart TV platform, or some flavor of Yahoo TV widgets. However, right now, everyone seems to be gravitating towards Google. We already know that Samsung, Vizio and LG all will launch Google TV sets next year, and Sony is already in the Google TV camp. Google has also hinted at more partner announcements, which could mean that we’ll have five or six manufacturers supporting the platform by next year. CE makers will likely still use Yahoo or their own platforms for lower-end models, which are essentially the same as today’s feature phones. But for slightly more expensive models, Google TV could soon become a de facto standard — much like Android has become in the handset market.

Cable set-top boxes may not be sexy, but they could be the key to Google TV's success.

Cable boxes. Even if Schmidt is wrong with his assessment, Google always has a backup plan: The company bought Motorola Mobility earlier this year, and as part of the deal also acquired Motorola’s set-top box business. That makes it all but certain that Motorola will eventually ship Google TV-powered cable boxes, which could bring the platform to millions of legacy TV sets.

  1. It’s not going to happen. SmartTV needs to be smart yet in absence of complexity.

    This article mentions multiple stores, interfaces on other options which may propel the cellular phone market but will fail against people who expect to grab a remote hit the power button and find content relatively easily.

    The minute the complexity rears it’s ugly head many consumers may get confused and stop using the functionality in a SmartTV.

    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication here. Despite having so many great features GoogleTV hasn’t taken off other than niche areas and It’s doubtful that Google understands how to craft a sophisticated UI/UX that’s going to keep the masses happy.

    Pointing to an article talking about Android/iPhone sales prior to the launch of a new iPhone doesn’t really bolster your supposition that Android is the De Facto standard and it more like you shuffling from the bottom of the deck here.

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    1. My point is that Google doesn’t need to build that UI. The platform is robust enough so it could be done by cable companies, CE manufacturers or 3rd party developers.

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      1. And since when have cable companies, TV vendors and the like shown any ability to design highly functional user experiences? Right… they haven’t.

        GTV will fail for a reason that has to do with the nature of the TV though… people mostly aren’t interested in a wide variety of apps on their TV. Were the G+ and forum posters? Maybe, but they’re on the far end of the geeky spectrum. For mainstream people, though, are apps something they want on what is usually a shared device? Sally wants to check Facebook, Bob wants to play a game and Bret wants to stream a movie. Um…

        Now, yes, there are shared apps that make sense (games, streaming media), but for a lot of apps it makes far more sense for someone to use their own smartphone or tablet.

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    2. Google screwed up on GTV ver 1. Apple called their box an hobby. Clearly, TV is not an easy problem to solve. But that said, why would one conclude that the future of GTV is gloomy? Methinks GTV still has a (one last) chance to show it’s mettle.

      To people who say “no one wants to tinker with their TV”, I’d like to ask if this wasn’t the same with mobiles of yore? People just wanted to make calls – that’s it. A colorful address book, up-down navigation and plain simple 10 digits – that was a mobile! But now a days, a mobile needs to tweet, do FB, stream youtube/netflix, play games and what not…how did we (the mainstream people) change from being simple phone users to smart phone users? I don’t recall attending any course on smart phones ;-) Moral of the story is: If you get the concept right, it will sell. Steve did this for mobiles (and Google followed). Someone will need to fix the TV. And Google sure has a chance.

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      1. “Methinks GTV still has a (one last) chance to show it’s mettle.”

        Too late for Logitech.

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      2. 100% agree, that everything is evolving also our expectations from our tv. In future, xbox will die, because of tv’s with camera movement detection and app store.

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    3. I totally agree with H. Murchison. While the early adopters might be savvy techies looking to tweak, adjust, tune and configure UI’s, layouts and whatnot, then the mainstream users wont.
      The biggest group of people, the mainstream users, want stuff to be EASY. Regular non-tech-interested people want stuff that they click ON, and it works, and the swap channels. Ask your closest family members, aunts, grandmas, brother in laws and suck, if they know how to operate a PVR featured tv-tuner. Im guessing the answer you get back is something like “My PV-what you said ?”

      Another example, from pc’s this time. Windows 7. Ask the same people, if they can explain to you how to change the background color on the desktop. Not the picture, but the color behind the picture. If you dont get a answer for this, on Windows 7, which was released now around 2 full years ago, then how on earth are they gonna bother with re-configure a UI on their TV ?!

      Simplicity is the new superhot keyword, that gonna replace the earlier Complexity word. Google gonna struggle hard with competing with other systems that have focus on Simplicity like the battle between Android vs iOS/Windows Phone. The mainstream consumers are buying Android now, because they dont know about anything else, cuz they are slow adopters, and iOS is to expensive. In 2012 when Microsoft/Nokia flip out the big guns in marketing, then Average Joe will realize that he dont have to struggle with Android anymore. He can instead breeze around in WP world, and making use of high tech features hidden away in some fancy sub-menu on the droids.

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      1. Gabriel Martin Tuesday, January 3, 2012

        IOS IS TO EXPENSIVE???

        I STOP READING YOUR COMMENT AFTER I READ IT…
        DO YOU KNOW AN IPHONE 4S CAN GET FOR FREE WITH CONTRACT IN SO MANY COUNTRIES???
        HERE IN USA, ITS ONLY $149 THEN THE IPHONE 4 IS ONLY $99 AND 3GS IS FREE???
        PLEASE EDUCATE YOURSELF…….

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  2. Great article! I was ok with what GoogleTV had before the update but now I’m just amazed what you can do with it. So much to tinker with and now amazon apps, wow that is cool.

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    1. An that is precisely the reason I’m not certain Google TV will have mass success. I don’t want to “tinker” with my TV. I just want it to work. I want to watch the content when I want with minimal hassle. Granted this is just the opinion of some one who hasn’t spent more than 15 minutes with a Google TV. It didn’t take much longer than that to decide it is more complexity than I wanted in an entertainment device.

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      1. I think you’ve nailed it. The mass market doesn’t want complexity in their TV and will reject it.

        Janko’s post reminds me of the crazy Sony/Google remote with a QWERTY keyboard that seemed to have been designed with no understanding of the mainstream consumer at all.

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      2. Maybe I should have been more clear about this, but my point is not that Google TV will be successful because it allows your average consumer to tinker. It’s the other way around: Those tinkerers that are currently testing out the limits are showing us what’s possible with the platform – and how Google, its partners and even third party developers can innovate on top of it.

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      3. I was at an electronics retailer during a vendor fair. The Samsung rep was there showing off the latest wares. Used that ridiculous keyboard to launch GTV. From there it was like watching the three stooges. Other salesmen had to come over to go here, go there. It was an abomination. That is why it will fail. Up, down, left, right and ok. That is the strategy that will succeed.

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  3. Vladimir Rodionov Thursday, December 15, 2011

    What customers want from Smart TV?

    Easy access to the content which can be consumed with minimum effort and user interactions. Its a passive kind of entertainment. What GTV offers? Yes, – active kind of entertainment.

    BTW, nobody else has solved the “Search” problem on a Smart TV. Nobody. Too many remote clicks are required to find something one would like to consume.

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  4. lol, you guys sound like my grandpa who just wants a phone he can make calls on… don’t look now but, you’re getting old! I’m 41 btw. I dig my GTV and agree completely with the article.

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  5. i think it will be big because of free market corruption. just as Android is big for this reason. virtual monopoly of supply chain, by way of partners who control that chain. Giving the software away is a great way to corrupt a market system. Google does not sell consumer products, all the billions come from monetizing user behavior data. Rat labs love free cheese, rats tout Mr.Cheesehead as a great benefactor for all of rat kind, and the rats nibble up all that free cheese. This is why it will scale big!! the cheese factory running the rats through the clear tubes of a Habitrail while under behavior surveillance by Mr.Cheesehead. Isnt any one getting board of this “free” lunch implied consent business model? Make a product, sell it, no strings attached, if its good you make the money.

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  6. That is Why Logitech CEO said he will focus on Google TV perapherals adds-on and not second Set-up box, make sense as Logitech an sccessories company and many companies will introduce Google TV Smart TV, so by doing so, Logitech avoid a Clash with potential customers/patrners by not developing New Revue-2.

    same as they did for 30 years, do accessories for PC and now tablets, TVs… also OEM accessories for the Like of Dell, Acer,etc

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  7. I would read the proposal for an Apple television at kickingbear.com – the most intelligent solution I’ve seen thus far. Basically, the screen is just a display – thin and light – with the signal beamed wirelessly from the processing box, coordinated via your iPhone or ridiculously simple remote.

    Simple beats multi-featured every time in the TV space. How many of those thousands of options on the average AV receiver do most people use? Why does your TV remote have so many buttons, when you only want to do a few things (repeatedly) with it? And how quickly do you think your kids would screw up a reconfigurable TV setup?

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    1. I agree with this. UI on a TV is really hard. But the iPad and iPhone showed what a remote should really look like. If Google’s toolkit allows you to build custom “remotes” (apps to install), then that would be a big deal. I already use the Xfinity app (Comcast) for controlling my TV. It’s still buggy but a huge improvement over the old way. Before long I’ll be able to browse for movies on my i-device and then push it to the TV.

      Similarly, my “stereo” is now just an amp and speakers hooked up to a an Airport Express. All the content streams from my iPhone (including Pandora and even NPR).

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      1. “If Google’s toolkit allows you to build custom “remotes” (apps to install), then that would be a big deal. ”

        The answer is yes, and it already exists. Both an official Google TV remote app for Android and iPhone, as well as 3rd party app that do the same.

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  8. o_O

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  9. Missing the point here! People are looking for content not smarter apps on their TV!

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    1. Smart(er) apps (and services) should address exactly this point. Netflix has shown the way. Vudu, Amazon, Rhapsody, Hulu, YoutubeLB and a host others are knocking on the doors. Right now, several players want to play “gatekeeper” to entertainment. Everyone wants to be a portal – But sooner or later, a winner will emerge. For sure he will be trounced later, but for some time, he (the winner) will define what a smartTV is…in just the same way Apple did for mobiles.

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  10. What’s missing here is the topic of the content providers such as CBS and other major networks blocking their programming web streams. That has to be resolved before Google TV can become a major cog.

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