In yet another move that pits Google against a one-time close ally, the search giant is rolling out a competitor to Apple TV. Given Google's ownership of YouTube, it seemed only a matter of time before the company would experiment with a web-based television service.
Google is working to bridge the gap between phones and computers that display web videos and television. With more consumers spending more time watching videos on devices other than televisions -- but with web videos still lacking the user-friendly features TV offers -- Google smells opportunity.
Google's solution is called (what else?) Google TV. If you can imagine turning on the TV and getting all the channels and shows you normally watch and all of the web sites you browse all day, you've just imagined what Google is promising with its new TV service.
Leveraging TV Search
Salahuddin Choudhary, Google TV product manager, revealed part of the new product offering's secret sauce: Google Chrome. With the browser built into the TV experience, he said, you can move between television and the web at will. That, he said, opens up the TV from a few hundred channels to millions of channels across both television and the web.
Google is also leveraging its search prowess in the new product. In describing how Google TV search capabilities work, Choudhary offered an example of the consumer who already knows what channel to watch. In that case, the user would type in the name and Google TV goes there. Choudhary also offered a few more scenarios.
"Want to check out that funny YouTube video on your 48-inch flat screen? It's just a quick search away. If you know what you want to watch, but you're not sure where to find it, just type in what you're looking for and Google TV will help you find it on the web or on one of your many TV channels," Choudhary said.
"If you'd rather browse than search, you can use your standard program guide, your DVR, or the Google TV home screen, which provides quick access to all of your favorite entertainment so you're always within reach of the content you love most."
Google's Content Hurdles
According to Rob Enderle, senior analyst at the Enderle Group, Google is coming at TV with a better content portfolio than Apple TV offers. That's because Google can offer access to YouTube and other web-based content.
"Google has a lot more potential than Apple did because Apple focused on traditional content. Google is offering web content, but they are still going to need to offer traditional content to make Google TV take off. Getting traditional content has proved daunting," Enderle said. "Whenever Apple has trouble getting something in the media area, you have to recognize the challenge. Apple worked through music really quickly. Apple approached video and hit a wall. Google is going to hit that same wall."
There is good news for Google, though: Media companies are starting to become more receptive to digital-content deals. Google may find itself with the right technology at the right time. Of course, Google may also be benefiting from Apple's work to plow through the resistance as well as its relationship with Sony.
"Google has Sony as a partner, but the content side of Sony and hardware side of Sony have never been able to get along. Like anything else, it's always the part that you are not focused on that catches up and nails you," Enderle said. "Ultimately, Google is still going to need to focus on traditional content to make this work."