The big news this week in the tech world has been Google+, where Google surprised those lucky enough to get an invite with ambitious new social network packed with some compelling features. From the granular privacy control of Circles, to a well-done group chat feature in Huddle to what may be the most sticky feature, Google Hangout, the company brought more to offer than most would have guessed, given its mixed history in social.
While no one’s really talking about it, one of the most interesting possibilities with Google+ would be an integration with Google TV. While it’s likely that nothing would happen for the second generation of Google TV, the possibilities of Google+ in the living room are too big to ignore.
Let’s speculate about the possibilities:
Circles and Google TV
Everyone’s frustration with Facebook’s lack of granular privacy controls provides a greenfield opportunity for Google to get things right with Circles, but that’s not what makes the feature work for Google TV. Instead, it’s the ability to tailor streams towards viewing activity.
Imagine specific Circles around areas of viewing interest, such as sports, reality TV or shows like Dancing With the Stars. Circles would work across screens, where some would watch and discuss live and others could simply join the Circle later, at their convenience, whether on Google TV, their mobile device or their computer. No doubt, as we move away from the grid guide and linear recommendation, Circles could be a foundation of a new form of recommendation and viewing guide.
Huddle and Google TV
The efforts for real-time conversation for social TV have thus far been fairly unimaginative and forced, such as the Mystery Science Theater-like viewing party for Netflix on Xbox 360. Instead, the real mass adoption of “water cooler” conversation social TV has been with Twitter and SMS, and this is something where Huddle could shine.
Imagine if Google+ conversations initiated by Huddle enabled directly from Google TV. People could see who in their friend or “viewing Circle” was online and initiate a realtime conversation. By simply inviting people into a Huddle to talk about an upcoming show, a live-view experience, a pre-planned stream of your favorite Netflix show, Huddle holds lots of potential by allowing very tailored and contextual reaches into a user’s social graph.
The big one: Hangout and Google TV
The part of Google+ that seems to hold the most possibility for social TV is live video chat with Hangouts. Of course, Skype is seeing good traction in with TV OEMs and has coming integration with Xbox 360 and Comcast set-tops to look forward to, and can no doubt be seen as the favorite in TV-based video chat (a market we predicted to hit 90 million users by 2015).
That said, early tests with multi-user video chat on Google+ have proven to be fairly intuitive, and its those sessions where Google TV can really shine with Google+ integration. Imagine having contextual conversation streams, based on shows of interest, launchable directly from the Google TV guide. Cross-screen conversation — meaning on TV, mobile or from a computer browser — would be possible as well.
And it’s not just about shared entertainment. Multi-user video chat in Google+ could be popular for distributed families, work teams or just about any organization where such a conversation would be desireable, and it makes sense that many would like to use the best screen in the house for their video chat.
All this, of course, it pure speculation at this point. However, Google has a track record of integrating its various properties onto its different platforms, and I expect Google+ is no different. While it should also be noted too that Google has a poor record in the social web, it looks like with the launch of Google+ the company may have finally found its social identity.
If this is the case and Google does indeed merge Google TV and Google+, social TV may never be the same.