Google TV To Lay Low At CES

What could have been a big boost for Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV from the consumer-electronics industry is now looking like a no-confidence vote in the service, with The New York Times reporting that Google has asked several manufacturers to hold off on showcasing new versions of the product at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show.

Not since Google Wave has a product launch looked so wobbly after an overhyped introduction from the company. While Google and its inaugural partners, Logitech and Sony (NYSE: SNE), could at least hide behind Black Friday as the rationale for the aggressive discounting they engaged in just weeks after the product hit the shelves, the CES withdrawal is a more unequivocal sign that Google may have a stinker on its hands.

Toshiba, LG Electronics (SEO: 066570) and Sharp are all reversing course and waiting until sometime after CES, when Google is through tinkering on an update to Google TV. Of course, that may not help matters much if even a souped-up version can’t count major partners on the programming side, where broadcasters including Fox and CBS (NYSE: CBS) are keeping their online programming off limits.

That said, Google has since claimed that Google TV was meant to be continually updated with new and improved versions, which would conceivably give this first iteration a pass. But therein lies a much bigger question: Is the problem with the product that it just needs further tweaking or is there something fundamentally wrong with what Google TV is trying to take to the mainstream here, namely the merger of television and web-style browsing? If the answer is the latter, all the fine-tuning in the world isn’t going to help something that isn’t meant to be.