Google made quite a splash yesterday when word surfaced that the company has plans to develop a retail set-top using the Android OS. Reactions ran from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some said the move was inevitable. On the other hand, Silicon Alley Insider said Google is set to become the latest failure in the American living room, and Todd Spangler was emphatic in pointing out that Google should take caution from TiVo’s story and that the company isn’t likely to conquer TV any time soon.
So who’s right?
I believe that Google may have a chance at being successful in TV, but not ultimately by offering only an over-the-top solution. As I’ve said in the past, cable and telecom companies have the ability to add OTT content to their existing television services, and they are experimenting in that direction. However, OTT companies will have a much more difficult time adding a full slate of premium TV content to their services. The money equation doesn’t net out. And I doubt that Google specifically has any great desire to be in the business of making big content deals. As Karl Bode has pointed out, Google is focused on the ad business where it’s made gobs of money. It’s why Google doesn’t want to be an ISP either.
On the other hand, could Google make a go of it in TV by working within the cable and telecom model? It’s certainly possible. Particularly since that model is moving toward IP (not Internet) delivery. In my very personal opinion, Google is experimenting on the retail front, but that doesn’t mean that’s where it will stay.
For more reading on this topic, check out this discussion between Mark Cuban and Boxee CEO Avner Ronan. I have huge respect for both gentlemen and would listen to them continue this argument any time.
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