Dreaming of a Google Set-Top Box

Let’s play every techie’s most-favorite and least-favorite game: What will Google disrupt next? Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch has a speculative piece today on a potential Google-initiated, open-source hardware platform for set-top boxes in the mold of Android, Google’s new mobile platform.

Armed with “an unconfirmed rumor I’ve heard from two knowledgeable industry sources” and firm denials from Vincent Dureau, head of Google’s TV technology team, Schonfeld has postulated a customizable, widgetizeable, mashable, controllable vision of the future of television.

The idea is not preposterous. It probably wouldn’t be so radical to adapt Android — which has a small footprint, is fast, and will be server-managed — to a set-top box environment. Browser-based access to content from services like Hulu and ABC.com would help Google (GOOG) overcome the problem of striking individual deals with content owners, and give it an advantage over closed platforms such as Microsoft’s (MSFT) IPTV and Apple TV (AAPL).

One problem: This being Google, it would presumably be monetized through advertising. But TV is already chock-full of ads! What do you think? Should Google get into set-top boxes? Would you use a Google set-top box?