The Unanswered Questions About Google TV


Murphy was in the room when Google unveiled its Google TV platform at its I/O developer conference today. The demo was plagued with numerous problems, with remote controls losing sync and questionable content showing up on the TV feeds used to demonstrate Google TVs integration of the Web and the TV. Those snags turned the keynote, which was also used for a much smoother presentation of the new Android 2.2 version, into a three-hour long marathon session, and Best Buy’s (s BBY) CEO  Brian Dunn had a hard time sounding convincing when he said he wanted a Google TV device “right now.”

However, technical hiccups weren’t the only issues that made the Google TV pitch sound less than ready for prime time. Google also made no mention at all of its new WebM initiative that was announced yesterday, which includes open sourcing its VP8 video codec. And in the inverse, Intel (s INTC) is powering all of the Google TV devices announced on stage today, but the chip maker was notably absent from the WebM announcement. Asked about this at a press conference following the unveiling of Google TV, Intel (s INTC) CEO Paul Otellini said that the first version of the company’s Atom chip won’t actually support any hardware acceleration for VP8, but that the company plans to enable this through software updates.

Also puzzling was that Google’s video sharing site YouTube played a minor role in this announcement. Google VP of Product Hunter Walk was invited on stage to demo a beta site offering a lean-back experience for YouTube, but Chandra resorted to, and not Sesame Street’s clips on YouTube, to demo some of the device’s customized search capabilities. YouTube representatives weren’t even invited on stage during the Google TV press briefing, and there were no indications that Google has any plans to ramp up its content offerings on YouTube to make it the content repository of choice for Google TV.

There are also some open questions how Google’s will incorporate advertising into its TV platform. Google CEO Eric Schmidt dodged a question about new advertising formats through Google TV, simply stating that ads on Google TV devices will either be delivered through websites or traditional TV programming. Of course, there’s also a third option, which would be to deliver ads through Android apps optimized for Google TV, which could potentially compete with broadcast ads running on the same screen. Chandra clarified later that there is no immediate plans to roll out such formats when the devices launch this fall.

And finally there are still unanswered questions about whether content from Hulu will actually play back on Google TV devices once these ship in fall. Hulu search results showed up during today’s demo, but the video site wasn’t actually part of the demo itself. Vic Chandra said during the press briefing that Google TV, in combination with Flash 10.1, will enable the capability to play back any Flash content. However, there’s a caveat: “Sites can make the decision not to enable content,” Chandra added. In other words: Hulu could still lock out Google TV users, just like they did with Boxee in early 2009.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ryan Holst.

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