Google’s SageTV acquisition: It’s not about the DVR

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SageTV’s announcement that it’s been acquired by Google this weekend has many speculating about DVR functionality soon coming to Google TV. But one of the few dissenters, interestingly enough, is the founder of one of SageTV’s competitors: SnapStream Media founder Rakesh Agrawal. In a blog post today, Agrawal had this to say about the SageTV acquisition:

“I consider it impossible that Google acquired SageTV so they could add native DVR capabilities to Google TV (remember, Google already manages the program guide, channel changing, and even automating your native DVR). I recently read “In the Plex” by Steven Levy and it gives a glimpse of how Google thinks — and for Google, the future is all about the Internet and the cloud.”

I’ve gotta say, I’m with Agrawal. Google TV is designed to work with existing DVRs, not to replace your DVR. Sure, eventually, we may see a DVR that runs Google TV software. But adding DVR functionality to the next version of Google TV would duplicate existing functionality and make the devices even more expensive. Hard drives still cost money, after all. And yes, Agrawal is right: Turning Google TV into a DVR would run counter to Google’s core philosophy.

So what else could Google want from SageTV? The company’s DVR software has also offered some interesting media playback capabilities, and SageTV offers a programming guide that could add some functionality to Google’s offering. But both features are incremental, and not something that Google’s engineers couldn’t have solved by themselves.

Here’s what my money is on: SageTV’s place-shifting software, which is essentially a Slingbox for your PC or media set-top box. SageTV place shifting makes it possible to watch live and archived TV programming on computers either in your home network or remotely. Third-party developers have already been able to port this functionality to iOS devices, and I expect that SageTV’s engineers will be working on releasing an Android client as soon as possible.

Google TV devices already have access to your live TV feed, and they’re capable of controlling your DVR. SageTV integration could make it possible to make your DVR recordings available anywhere and on any device. Essentially, this will be Google TV’s take on TV Everywhere — and it will add features to the device that will make Apple and others look weak in comparison.

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