Google Plays Its Hand, Trumps Apple?


Google 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 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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