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Did Google Just Kill Boxee, Roku and TiVo?

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With the introduction of Google TV today, the search giant has the potential to disrupt the online video industry by merging it with existing broadcast TV services. By doing so, Google (s GOOG) might render obsolete standalone set-top boxes and DVRs that pipe online video content to the TV.

But before we get too far, let’s state the obvious: Google TV is not about killing Apple (s AAPL) TV. Of course Google TV will render Apple TV obsolete — but Apple (s AAPL) TV was never very relevant to begin with. The better question is what happens to companies like Boxee, Roku and TiVo (s TIVO) when Sony (s SNE) begins manufacturing and selling Google TVs in earnest.

In a lot of ways, the big threat to the existing broadband set-top box providers is Google’s potential scale, which could prove attractive to developers once the numbers add up and enough devices are sold. Roku and Boxee each have open SDKs for publishers , and Google will be opening up an app store to allow developers to build Google TV apps. But for many publishers, you need to reach a critical mass of users before it makes sense to invest the resources in the development process.

Roku has sold more than 500,000 units, and has said it expects that number to reach a million by the end of this year. Boxee has had about a million downloads of its media center software, but it hasn’t even begun shipping its hardware product yet, with the sale of its Boxee Box set to begin sometime by the end of the second quarter. Even taken together that’s a very small market for developers.

But while Roku CEO Anthony Wood agreed scale is key to success, he doesn’t see Google TV reaching the scale necessary anytime soon due to the costs associated with Intel (s INTC) processors needed to run the platform. “I think this year [Google TVs] are going to be super-expensive, so I don’t think they’ll reach scale very soon,” Wood said.

Then there’s the question of technology. Roku, Boxee — hell, even Apple TV — aren’t about convergence; they’re about bringing web video to the TV. Which is something that Google TV does, and has the potential to do better. Based on today’s demo, Google’s interface for bringing web video to the TV will at least give them a run for their money. More importantly, Google TV doesn’t just stop there: It takes online video a step further by integrating it with traditional broadcast and cable programming.

As for TiVo — well, in a lot of ways TiVo was the precursor to today’s Google announcement, as the DVR manufacturer has been working for years on creating a unified platform for broadcast and broadband video content. But again, Google seems to take that convergence a step further, in particular by building the functionality directly into the TV, without the need for a separate set-top box.

Of course, there’s a lot left to be decided. We don’t yet know, for instance, how expensive Sony’s line of Google TV products will run. If they’re priced at a severe premium to the rest of the market, consumer demand could be limited, regardless of the underlying technology. But if Google TV does take off, you can expect a lot less people buying standalone set-top boxes or DVRs in the future, if they can get all the same technology — and more — built into their TVs.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: New Business Models For Pay TV Services (subscription required)

16 Responses to “Did Google Just Kill Boxee, Roku and TiVo?”

  1. Jones

    Treating Boxee like it is an original is misleading. Boxee is no more than XBMC but with pointless social networking added. Give XBMC credit where it is due.

  2. GoogFriend

    The blog writer clearly loves sweeping generalizations, and catchy headlines, but doesn’t understand who competes with whom and why.

    GoogleTv’s actual competitor is boxee, but Boxee clearly wins on UI (not to mention tegra2+superior remote).

    Tivo wins its segment because it has a cable card–you know– to actually GET and record the premium shows.

    Roku wins its segment because of its netflix distribution and lower price. It’s less prepared for this competition, but will still do ok, because no one wants the internet on their TV.

    Google screwed the pooch on this one. Search for TV? Fail.

    TV is the preferred entertainment medium. The web? not so much.

  3. timekeeper

    Why is this so new for Sony? They released the MX-NV1 a while back. (

    This initiative looks like a few big companies getting together to make a product. Sony will market it on their TV’s, Intel will give them chips at or below cost and Google will funnel content and ads to the device.

    What they did not seem to announce is Sony offering their entire digital library on the service. What, they are not?! To me, this is a glaring omission.

    Also, Google!? YouTube is in court for copyright infringement. Google’s search engine is known for linking to illegal copies of content. The company only wants to make money on selling ads. Protection of rights is not their goal. It’s going to be tough to get content rights holders to agree to have their stuff show up on GoogleTV.

    I think they should call Google TV the “Nexus Two”. We’ll see it around for a few years then they will shutter this project too.

  4. Sony TVs are already expensive so I can only imagine these tvs will be very expensive. The big question is how soon other Tv companies can get in on the action. You don’t mention the logitech set top box. I see this being a viable option for people that don’t want to fork out the dollars for a new tv.

  5. gonzo90017

    “Right now the program is very buggy and first time non-techy users quickly become frustrated.”
    I was referring to boxee.

  6. gonzo90017

    I think that if Boxee doesn’t get out of Beta status it’s probably the end of them hardware wise especially if google comes out of the gate with a product that just works.

    Right now the program is very buggy and first time non-techy users quickly become frustrated.

    This is why I think that there is still a place for Roku in this space. It just works out of the box. I personally built an HTPC running Zinc+GBPVR+Hulu Desktop which gives me more then Google TV could offer. But for friends that are not that into pc’s I would recommend Roku for its ease of use.

  7. I really like Boxee and the moves they have been making. The fact that I can ignore all the stupid videos(serious distractions) that come across my desk all day via twitter, fbook, etc and then batch them all at night in one sitting is Epic. That alone makes me love Boxee.

    Yet watching that webcast today and especially the panoply of CEO’s they rolled out after the fact as partners made me uneasy for boxee and its future. That;s a whale coming after them. Either way its gonna be great for us consumers and really bad for cable companies which I have no problems with.

  8. r0macdonald

    I think Google TV will be seen as a monumental inflection point in the realization of “TV convergence.”

    Google TV offeres remarkable opportunities to video content creators and hosting services, like Brightcove, to to enhance discovery by developing Android applications for Google TV devices .

    I think there are also exceptional opportunities for developing apps beyond basic discovery functions, employing dynamic querying of TV metadata and calling related internet content to deliver highly personalized & contextualized extended viewer engagement opportunities.

  9. I’ve been wondering the same thing all day. Google TV just came in like that young, new employee that kicks ass at work and puts the veterans to shame. The vets will have to step their game up nonetheless. I’m not too certain about it killing Tivo, but it most likely has companies with streaming devices like Roku thinking. People are going to have to look hard at their usefulness now.

    Hardware cost and compatibility will play the major role here. Heck, we’ll probably see some of these companies move to Google TV as their platform.

    As far as cross-platform media centers like Boxee, I can’t say much regarding how it will impact them so far. Boxee still has the local content advantage. That is until the Google TV set-top boxes and HDTVs provide USB support. Anyway…We’ll have to see..