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Where were all the Google TVs at CES?

Just a week ago, the blogosphere was abuzz with the news that Google had officially locked down partners for a whole new generation of devices with its operating system for connected TVs. But if Google finally is gaining the trust and support of the consumer electronics industry, there was little evidence of it at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

In a blog post last Thursday, Google talked up new partnerships with device manufacturers LG and Samsung as well as an extension of its announced deals with Sony and Vizio. It also reported new partnerships with chip providers Marvell and MediaTek, which would give the operating system support among a wider range of devices. For those who have been waiting patiently for Google TV to finally “take off,” those deals were seen as validation that maybe Eric Schmidt wasn’t crazy when he said that by next summer “the majority of the televisions you see in stores” will have Google TV installed.

But the reality of what was actually shown at CES doesn’t match the spin. Let’s review:

  • Sony, which was burned badly in its first go-around with Google TV, has decided to take the operating system off its connected TVs for the foreseeable future. Instead, it is shipping Google TV in one connected Blu-ray player and a streaming media box that will compete against Roku, Apple TV, (s AAPL) Boxee Box and others.
  • LG announced two connected-TV models with Google TV installed, sized at 47 inches and 55 inches. Both will be backlit and have 1080p resolution as well as 3-D capabilities. While the pricing of the sets was not announced, the specs that were shared suggest these 3DTVs are likely to be priced at a premium to other LG products, which is never a good sign in a tough economic environment. What’s more telling is that LG’s Google TVs were announced as an afterthought to those with its own Smart TV platform, which the company says boasts almost 1,200 apps in its own store.
  • Like Sony, Vizio announced a streaming player and Blu-ray player with Google TV installed. It also detailed the coming availability of 47, 55 and 65 inch 3DTVs that will use the latest Google TV operating system. But don’t expect it to talk up Google TV in its marketing materials: While based on the Android operating system, Vizio is re-skinning the system and branding the app framework VIA Plus (for Vizio Internet Apps).
  • And Samsung, which has long been expected to introduce Google TV on at least some of its devices, did not mention the partnership at all in its press conference. Instead, it talked up the improved feature set of its own app platform, which now has Kinect-like voice and gesture control as well as facial recognition.

So what can we learn about the state of Google TV in 2012? Despite all the bullish headlines, it has been largely relegated to experimental, low-volume devices like streaming video players — remember, Roku has sold only 2.5 million in three years — and 3DTVs, which have yet to gain mainstream adoption and seem unlikely to do so in the near future. In other words, CE manufacturers are still taking a “cautious approach” to the OS.

The one exception is Vizio, which actually seems committed to having Google TV power some of its more-popular products. Then again, as one industry observer pointed out to me during the week, Vizio doesn’t have the same development resources as the other major manufacturers, meaning it has to depend on someone else’s OS for smart TVs. And again, it is being very careful to ensure that the look and feel of the OS is all Vizio, completely downplaying the Google TV brand.

While it is clear that the CE industry needs to do something to fight fragmentation among the dozen or so smart TV platforms, it seems unlikely that Google TV will be its savior in the near future. Google might have more partners than it did a year ago, but they are hardly adopting the platform en masse. Unless something drastic happens, don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

18 Responses to “Where were all the Google TVs at CES?”

  1. Mobimation AB

    I do think that Android has won the app platform war in the TV space as well. Samsung could consider Bada, a platform used in some of their phones, or continue with their current SmartTV browser centric app platform. But unity with the outside world is a good thing and the explosion of all the Android phones and tablets and the amazing amounts of apps for these means an amazing potential easy route for having app vendors tweak these apps for GoogleTV. It seems natural and obvious. Once vendors get the consumer experience thing refined (angry customers a thing of the past) there will be nothing stopping the wave of Android apps also in the TV space.

  2. @Charbax – I agree 100% with your response. Remember what has happened with Google TV over the last few months. To go from Logitech and Intel bouncing to the top manufacturers publicly supporting integration and additional products in five months tells me there is renewed long term commitment. Keep in mind these commitments are VERY new and I am sure are based largely on the success of “GTV 2.0” and Marvell commitments; these things don’t happen overnight.

  3. Hiram Bertoch

    Google tv is going to fail, but Android on the other hand, with touch screen televisions is a no-brainer.

    Like the Chrome operating system, Android will kill off Google television as well.

  4. 最终冰器红豆

    Still, the most likely common-enemy to unite those CE is still Apple. Like Smartphone, they would not be so eagerly dumping their own OS and adopted Android if not because of iPhone. So, if the rumored Apple TV turned out to be another blockbuster, Google TV would certainly took off. If not, Google TV would flop. Ironic isn’t it?

  5. You must be joking? The worlds top-5 TV makers basically want to integrate Google TV in all new HDTVs, the worlds 2 biggest TV makers, Samsung and LG both confirm ARM Powered Google TV support. At CES, several major ARM Processors designed specifically for Google TV were announced and shown from Marvell, Mediatek, LG. What this basically means is it now costs $25 to add Google TV functionality in any HDTV, that means more than half of all HDTVs to be sold starting within 6 months from now, all will include Google TV right inside of them. The Marvell Armada 1500 powered Google TVs and Set-top-boxes start shipping early 2nd quarter 2012, read the Marvell CEO’s quotes, it costs $25 to add the Google TV functionality to a HDTV, less than $50 as a Set-top-box.

    It’s logical that we’ll soon enough hear of Panasonic, Sharp, Philips, Toshiba and more to also announce they will build in Google TV in all of their TVs and all will provide Set-top-boxes, Panasonic is also building an ARM Cortex-A9 processor just for that.

    • Seriously, world’s top-3 TV makers, Samsung, LG and Sony, all confirmed, announced and showed Google TV at CES (Samsung to show it soon as is building its own ARM Processor for it), this is not good enough for you? Read again, worlds top-3 HDTV makers, all support one same Google TV platform.

    • Ryan Lawler

      @Charbax – It’s a ‘believe it when I see it’ situation. For all that Google has been championing its partnerships, there’s little actual product being created. I walked the CES floor and heard the manufacturers tell their stories in press conferences. In each case, Google TV seemed like an afterthought, if it was mentioned at all.

      If it’s true that six months from now half the TVs being sold in stores will be running Google TV, we would have heard about it, and seen the products that will be shipping at that time. But we didn’t.

      I don’t want to see promises or press releases. I want to see product.

      • I seriously doubt if Schmidt would so brazenly make a the statement that over 50% of TVs on sale will have Google TV in them by this summer, if the contracts and production plans weren’t already in place.

        The only rational explanation is that Google has placed a restriction of reporting until the launch is ready.

    • Rurik Bradbury

      On this one, Charbax, I think you’re right. There’s no way consumers would pick a ‘Samsung OS’ TV with no apps vs a ‘Google OS’ TV with lots of apps — so it makes sense for all the top TV makers to join up with Google. And seeing as it’s embedded everywhere, why promote it?

      • Ryan Lawler

        @Rurik – Samsung’s OS has more than 1,400 apps available after two years of letting companies build for its platform. Meanwhile, Google TV’s SDK has only recently become available for developers.

  6. Beto Gáles

    So Sony announces new Google TV products with improvements and that doesn’t count? I thought they announced a new box with a game-ready remote control with special sensors, and a new TV set later in the year.

    That there are new partners with various versions of Google TV is cool.

    People are more likely to buy add-ons that new TV sets because people don’t buy new TVs every year.

    • Ryan Lawler

      @Beto – I see the Sony announcement as a pullback. It announced new products, but the old products have disappeared. And those new products aren’t actually TVs. Doesn’t that seem a little funny to you?

  7. Robert Scoble

    When I got a tour of Vizio’s booth at CES they pointed out Google TV at every stop. So I’m not sure if I agree with you. Yes, you are right, they also pointed out that they improved the UI and are working on other improvements.

  8. Zeeshan Tariq

    New Google TV is one of the hottest things in the market right now with LG chosen (etechmagdotcom) as a partner to make TV sets that are compatible with newer software for upcoming Google TV. Nothing has been officially stated about LG’s role but assuredly Google wants to capture this market as soon as possible in a perfect way. For me, personally, I am waiting for Apple TV as I am an Apple fan than of Google.

  9. Paul Schneider

    In its suites at the Renaissance, ActiveVideo Networks was showing how its CloudTV H5 platform could deliver Google’s Spotlight TV optimized websites on Philips products and cable set-top boxes.

  10. Travis Henning

    I was wondering this same thing. Began thinking I was reading the wrong sites for CES coverage. Pre-CES Samsung was supposed to be one of the premier partners. Unless Google put an embargo on big Google TV announcements for CES and has a special event planned in the next few weeks, I’d be a bit concerned with the direction of Google TV. Google TV may end up going the way of Chrome OS. Lot of hype, little buy-in.

    I’ve said this before, Google is a great search company with great engineers, they can do a lot of neat stuff, and they’ve found a market for Android, but I think what’s missing from many of their products is the consideration of the average consumer. It may be that the first iteration of Google TV bit too many partners in the rear and they’re hesitant tie their hardware to gTV.