Archive for June, 2011

Google TV: Not an Undead Zombie Product-Yet

Had to respond to a Dan Frommer posting, run on a week ago.

Why Google TV isn’t dead yet

Normally Frommer is a sharp analyst, but here I think he’s missed an obvious point. After reporting Google TV anemic sales numbers, he says Google needs to adopt an Android-like strategy: seed the OS on zillions of consumer TV devices. His wrap-up:

“Google TV: It could either become the de facto operating system for consumer electronics and succeed as the Android for TVs and set-top boxes, or it could crash and burn.”

Really? Just those two possibilities? 

My take: Google hasn’t a clue how to market (i.e., build demand) for Google TV. “Shiny/new” and “expensive” aren’t compelling value propositions for general TV shoppers by themselves. Similarly, the TV manufacturers don’t know what marketing buttons to push to light a fire under “Internet TV” sales except Netflix, YouTube, and “not much more expensive than a regular TV.” Buyers jumped on “flat screen”, they jumped on “HD” and “1080p”, they’re kinda running fast towards “LED” and they’re dawdling along towards “3D”. Nothing about Google TV has the same pull as “HD” did. Buyers saw HD, they had to have it. 

Problem is, Google isn’t a marketing-oriented company. They actually need partners to make Google TV into something that’s in the “gotta have it” category. They have a boatload of money to invest, should someone have a good PowerPoint deck with a reasonable concept. Google’s been successful fostering a healthy developer ecology for Android smartphones.

But… but TV isn’t like smartphones at all: smartphones are an incredible versatile platform for a wide range of activities, and Android is the lower levels of the stack needed to open up innovation possibilities at the higher levels–the more apps, the better. Ad-driven Internet TV is a single-purpose platform. TV users don’t want 20, 50, or 100 apps on a lean-back TV: they want to access hundreds or thousands of pieces of relevant content. The two important words here are “content” (with hundreds of content owners, none of whom have any expertise in Internet TV), and “relevant” (the well-known problems of what do I want to watch, how do I find what I want to watch, is anyone I know watching the same thing I am?) 

These are the two areas of focus to create demand for Internet TVs. Google itself doesn’t have the DNA suited to either, but it’s so big and threatening it will have a tough time partnering with those whom it needs to have a hope of making Google TV successful. And it will have little success recruiting lean-back TV device manufacturers to adopt GTV as a connected TV OS and creating the same kind of developer ecology that mushroomed up for smartphones.
Google will have to spend money to buy a lot of expertise it doesn’t have.

What do you think?

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