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Google Plays Its Hand, Trumps Apple?

Google (s goog) today launched its official site for the upcoming Google TV. The site details many of the new product’s features, and I suspect it’s designed to give at least some who were considering buying an Apple TV (s aapl) pause. Google won’t be shipping any actual hardware running Google TV until later this fall, but even the mini-site itself is a good opening salvo against Cupertino.


Why? Well it plays up Google TV’s advantages over Apple TV in a big way, and that can be summed up in one word: apps. It’s the second word of Google’s brief introduction that greets you when you first navigate to the site, and it’s also clearly a strong influence in the product’s logo design. Even though Google seems intent on foregrounding apps, it isn’t the only advantage its offering has.


Google TV isn’t going to discriminate when it comes to users’ mobile device choices. That means you’ll be able to use either Android or iOS devices as a remote. Choice doesn’t stop there; you’ll also be able to stream content from your phone using Fling. It doesn’t look like Fling features will be limited to Android-powered devices, while Apple’s AirPlay is clearly proprietary and not making its way to other smartphone platforms. If this works well, and it does indeed play nice with a wide range of devices, it alone could sink the Apple TV.

Not Reinventing the Wheel

The appeal of Google TV will also be much wider, owing to its ability to play nice with existing forms of content distribution, i.e. satellite and cable. Starting where people are comfortable, especially for the aging boomer population, should translate to a huge boost in consumer interest for Google. Apple TV is like learning a new language for people using it for the first time, and not everything from your native language even translates correctly (meaning you can’t get all the same content).

Combine traditional content sources with DVR capabilities, and Apple’s in trouble. DVR won’t come to this generation of Apple TV, even if apps do down the road. Plus, cable providers will be lining up to join hands with Google when Apple is actively working against them.

Not a Fair Fight

I honestly don’t even think it’s fair to count Apple TV as a competitor for Google TV at this point. Google has multiple hardware partners who are already industry leaders, the backing of many more content providers, an honest to goodness development platform already built-in, and a willingness to play nice with whatever users already have at home. That, and apps, too, right out of the box.

Apple was aware of at least some of this well before it released the new Apple TV, so you can bet that it made a conscious decision to avoid going toe-to-toe with Google in this market. Bringing the App Store to its device will help the Apple TV for the same reason it helps drive iOS device sales: Apple has a heck of a head start. But ultimately, I don’t think this is a battle Apple can hope to win, or even lose by a close margin, without major changes to its hardware and basic corporate philosophy.

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15 Responses to “Google Plays Its Hand, Trumps Apple?”

  1. Marco A.

    It’s going to take 20 years for this war to play out, and Apple is much better positioned for how things will end up. It makes little sense to stick a better OS (Android) in the same old set-top box with tuner, Tivo, Sling type features, when Internet media delivery is at hand.

    Hardware, software, bandwidth, all the issues of ten years ago are solved today. You don’t need an under-TV box at all, any smartphone is more powerful than the average set-top. If the iPhone had HDMI, Apple TV would be an app instead of a box. Some Android phones can already do 720p over HDMI.

    The only real issue is content availability and pricing. Neither Apple nor Google seems to have enough clout to get access to the content people really want – new movies, TV episodes, sports. Until that changes, Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, etc. are just doing a rain dance, hoping to get anointed with the content that will make them rich.

  2. They are going to make next generation cable boxes! GoogleTV will have cable and satellite tuners built-in. Motorola is one of the largest cable box manufacturers and Google has a relationship with them on Android. Now they can port Android to be a new cable box OS. I don’t see much difference between GoogleTV and say TiVo? Both have apps and DVR and Internet streamed shows, interactive guides, search, etc. Who cares if you can browse the web, that is a feature few will use. It’s all about Apps to get the Weather, Sports Scores & highlights, Flicker, Netflix, and Internet TV shows Digg Nation, etc. Maybe some simple games like Bejeweled, etc.

    AppleTV is basically an iOS device which means it’s just waiting for the right moment to spring some new Apps. Apple’s belief would be to build AppleTV apps specifically like it had developers build for the iPad. Sure you can run an iPhone or iPad app but it’s not going to take advantage of the full 16:9 TV screen. The simplicity of AppleTV is the same as an Airport Express but with iOS built-in.

    To assume that GoogleTV will squash Apple will be a very big mistake. Apple has a much shorter distance to leap frog Google. They have an entire infrastructure in place and ready to go. They are merely working on development environment changes to handle 16:9 TV’s and some new user interface elements best suited to a TV.

  3. I don’t see what the big deal is about. I took the tour of Google TV. Ummm, I had a Mac Mini hooked up to my TV and realized that surfing the web from the couch is not as good an idea as it may seem. It’s hard to read and just not comfortable – even on a plasma. Using the mouse and keyboard doesn’t fit with sitting on a couch and using an on-screen keyboard using a remote is tiresome.

    Remember WebTV? There was a reason it didn’t last. People picked computer screens, not televisions (I’ll agree that the implementation was lame, but it just wasn’t a great idea.)

    There also doesn’t seem to be a lot to watch on Google TV. No networks at all. I can buy HBO shows? Wow. Netflix, Hulu, Pandora? I live in México, they block all that to our IP addresses, as well as any address outside the US.

    It would seem that the only thing that Google TV is really good for is rentinging movies and TV shows, but only if you live in the US (maybe Canada, don’t know, but doubt it). iTunes has no such restrictions, I rent American movies all the time here in México using my Apple TV, which also does Netflix, YouTube, etc.

    I would get a Google TV if it did something but it doesn’t seem to do much of anything.

  4. I wonder if there even IS a battle between who is going to “own” your tv.

    First of all I can’t imagine why anyone would buy an Apple TV. It’s just a box that prohibits what you view, it does nothing else. If you really want a box with an apple logo under your TV, buy a mac mini and you can just download and watch anything you like from anywhere you like, without complex and expensive licensing schemes that may not even be availaible outside the US.

    Then there’s google TV. It sure looks a lot more promising. But I still wonder what it really adds if you don’t have all kinds of weird expensive subscriptions to content providers (again, not available outside the US).

    I’m not saying I don’t want to pay for content. I have a room full of DVD’s and a room full of CD’s. But now that the day and age of physical media are gone – is the alternative really this corporate stranglehold?

      • The money I spent on dvd’s is represented by a physical product on my bookshelf. If I can’t have that anymore (imagine I would borrow a dvd to a friend – we can’t have that now can we?) – the digital product better be a whole lot cheaper.
        Sadly it isn’t. I have to buy boxes, run cables through my entire house and pay all kinds of monthly fees and I still won’t own anything :-)

  5. You know what is great? Watching something on TV while you are on Twitter on your phone, iPad or laptop. You know what isn’t? Using a Twitter app on your GoogleTV instead of watching something. How useless is that Twitter app?

    Ever since the internet hit the masses, companies have been trying to come out with boxes and set ups to mesh it with TV. No company has done it yet. Is it because it hasn’t been done right, or is it because there really isn’t a demand for it? TV is called the ‘boob’ tube for a reason.

    Too complicated and too expensive to hit it big. In all seriousness, a significant % of people will use the GoogleTV built into their tv’s to do one search. “How do I turn GoogleTV off?”

  6. “Combine traditional content sources with DVR capabilities, and Apple’s in trouble. DVR won’t come to this generation of Apple TV, even if apps do down the road.”

    DVR won’t come to this generation of GoogleTV either, unless you count IR-Blasting commands from your gTV box to your DVR.

    I honestly think that gTV is just too complicated for the average consumer. You say it starts ‘where people are comfortable’, but that’s just not the case for what we’re seeing right now. Expecting a population that for the most part doesn’t even have it’s HDTVs hooked up correctly to add an extra layer of box and cables to everything they do on TV is downright preposterous.

    If it *replaced* one of your boxes, sure, but it doesn’t replace anything – it just has to connect to EVERYTHING. Not gonna be fun for anyone who’s not very familiar with the back of their TV…

  7. Google TV does look interesting, but I think it is too early too tell whether it will be a hit or not. Two big things:

    1) Price. Initial estimates look relatively expensive ($300+)

    2) Might just be too much for the average consumer. I don’t know about you, but a lot of people I know have no interest in having the full internet, twitter, etc. on their TV.

    Google success will depend on marketing, something that they haven’t exactly excelled in.

    As least the UI looks good, instead of the god-awful trash they usually put out.