Let’s face it: Companies like Google (s GOOG) and Apple (s AAPL) invest fortunes into building platforms like Android and iOS — but when it comes to consumers embracing these platforms, it often comes down to one single killer app. It’s the app that you fire up to show off your new phone to your friends. Or the app that you took for granted at first, only to eventually realize that it completely changed the way you interact with a device.
For many early iPhone users, this was Google Maps and the way it made use of the touch screen. For G1 owners and other early Android adopters, it may have been the barcode scanner. And for today’s Android-loving masses, it’s Google’s turn-by-turn navigation.
Google is scheduled to launch the Android marketplace on Google TV devices in early 2011, which will potentially add a lot of new functionality to existing and future Google TV devices. So what will be Google TV’s killer app? Here are three possible candidates:
London-based Shazam has been offering mobile phone applications to identify music for close to a decade now. The idea is simple: Want to know the title of a song you’re hearing? Just take out your phone, fire up Shazam, record a few seconds, and immediately have your handset tell you song title, band name and other details, complete with a link to buy the song online. The company has been hugely successful with this and passed the mark of one billion identified songs in May.
Of course, chances are, you’re hearing the song on TV. So why would you even deal with your cell phone, instead of simply pressing the Shazam button on your remote control?
Shazam uses acoustic fingerprinting to identify the songs you hear, but this type of technology isn’t limited to music recognition. The company has already been striking collaborations with TV networks like Syfy (s GE) and HBO (s TWX) to get viewers to engage with content. Most recently, viewers were able to unlock special content for Syfy’s shows Eureka and Warehouse 13.
One could imagine a ton of other use cases for acoustic fingerprinting of TV content, many of which have to do with advertising. Why not measure the shows as well as ads a viewers is watching across all networks and content sources with the help of Shazam, and then personalize their ad experience based on these viewing patterns?
I have to credit none other than Google TV Product lead Rishi Chandra for this idea. Asked how the killer app for Google TV will look like, he told me during an interview in October that he sees a lot of potential for “social experiences that you have in the living room, things that you want to share with other people.” He added: “Why couldn’t karaoke be a great application?” Check out the full interview for more:
I really like this idea, despite not being that much into karaoke myself. There’s something very compelling about the idea that a device like Google TV doesn’t just play video you’d passively watch, be it from the web or your cable company. Instead, there will be applications that will allow you to create, manipulate and mash up content. Karaoke is just one example — one could also imagine video remixes, simple collaborative video editing tools or even game shows shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? extending the experience into the living room with the help of special apps.
Mystery Science Theater
The power of meta-data still remains largely untapped in the world of online video. Google TV has a unique opening in this space because it’s able to engage with both online and cable content. Imagine you’re watching an episode of The Simpsons, complete with a collaboratively edited subtitle that explains all the pop-cultural and Simpsons-specific references. Or imagine if a running commentary of hardcore fans had been available to make some sense of those final Lost episodes.
Google TV wouldn’t be the first platform to offer this types of metadata-based commentary: The folks at Joost and others tried to get something like this off the ground before. But there has until now been a sort of chicken-and-egg problem, in that you need a lot of content to make this type of commentary valuable to end users, but no one will add content if there’s no audience for it.
Luckily, Google wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel: Remember Google Wave and the way one could play back waves to catch up on discussions? Now imagine you catch up on an episode of Glee recorded on your DVR, and Google TV plays back all of Glee-related tweets your friends sent out when the episode originally aired, precisely times so that each and every tweet relates to the scene you’re currently watching. It’s like your very own Mystery Science Theater.
Got your own idea for a Google TV killer app? Feel free to share it in the comments.
Related content on GigaOM Pro: (subscription required)