Google TV - the inverse of Apple TV

Google-smart-tv.jpgWhere Apple had a proprietary approach to TV, Google looks to introduce a set-top box based on Android, dubbed "Smart TV," at the I/O conference this week. Smart TV is in collaboration with Sony, Intel and Logitech and allows users to switch easily between TV shows, YouTube or home videos on your own set. The Apple TV, introduced in 2007, requires iTunes so users can buy or rent movies, TV shows, songs or podcasts. The Apple TV was a living room extension of the iTunes Store, that's about it. No major networks got on board with Apple.  Although earlier this year, we thought Disney and CBS were interested in Apple's offer of $2-$4/month per subscriber. That is much higher than networks get today. The only catch was Apple would sell a subscription without ads as a $30/month bundle. I doubted the networks would get on board because their source of reach is cable networks. Those cable MSOs do not want to compete with Internet TV served up by Apple. Google on the other hand, with Smart TV, would enable Google to control navigation of content through the TV set. They've been testing a search service to help consumers find shows on the Dish Network already. Intel provides the Atom chips, Sony provides the consumer brand and Logitech would provide a specialized remote with a built-in keyboard. On the video front, I think Google is about to open up the VP8 video codec acquired with their purchase of On2. The lack of an appropriate universal codec for the HTML5 video element has made it difficult for standards-based video to reach critical mass. H.264 compression still rules and so do its patents and license fees. VP8 is said to be highly sophisticated and competitive with H.264. If Google makes VP8's underlying intellectual property available under royalty-free terms, it could propel HTML5 video as the de-facto standard. Think HD Internet video in a browser from your 62" set! The wildcard is if they can keep the Android kernel for TV from fragmenting. Open Source is a two-edged sword as I've pointed out many times.