Google TV is an internet-connected television platform. It was announced by Google on May 20, 2010. Google TV operates functions with the Android operating system and connects your TV to homes internet connection via a wireless network.

Basically the idea is to use your television as a browsing device. The interface is customized to make it easier to access and watch video content in your living room. The basis search engine functionality is the same but you can switch between watching television online or browsing the internet without changing devices or inputs to your television.

A potentially revolutionary feature is the integration of social networking with media consumption. The concept of the “Fling” is pushed by Google TV, this enables you to ‘fling’ what you are watching, listening or browsing, to your friends on your social network. The device also integrates with your smart phone or other portable media device such as iPad.

The popularity of YouTube is exploited with the “Leanback” function. This is basically a customisation option whereby the user creates their own “channel” based on their preferences and interests. The ‘Leanback” function will then continuously stream video content with search items that fall within your parameters. You can also find a record streamed television shows to watch at your leisure.

The system will appeal to the techno-savvy who are used to multi-tasking. You could for instance configure the device to trickle down sports scores or news updates in a side window while you watch a video feed at the same time as you communicate with your friends on a social network.

At the 2010 Google I/O conference on May 20. Google announced its collaboration with Sony and Logitech. All new HD television sets and Blu-ray players by Sony will come preconfigured with Google TV, while Logitech will throw its weight behind set top boxes running the application.

The system is geared to allowing developers to create applications that enhance the package. Using Google TV you access the internet with Goggle’s Chrome browser. The core idea of being that able to browse the net and watch TV at the same time has allowed developers to customise portals for Netflix and iPhone.

Reaction from the industry press has not been favorable.

“Google TV feels like an incomplete jumble of good ideas only half-realized, an unoptimised box of possibility that suffers under the weight of its own ambition and seemingly rushed holiday deadline.” (Nilay Patel, 2010)

Kevin Sintumuang said of Google TV in his Wall Street Journal review that:

“The potential is as big as, well, the Internet, but right now Google TV is a bit of a tease.”

The New York Time’s David Pogue (2010) had similar sentiments, saying:

“This much is clear: Google TV may be interesting to technophiles, but it’s not for average people.”

The idea has huge implications for social networking, online gaming, digital radio, personalised news and even online piracy, but how will it make money?

At the DisplaySearch TV Ecosystem Conference, Shalini Govil-Pai, the group manager for partnerships at YouTube and Google TV told attendees:

monetization models are still being discussed. Obviously advertising is going to play a big role.”

With the results of every Google search users also received sponsored links. Every time a user clicks on a sponsored link the advertiser pays a small fee to Google. The price advertisers pay is determined by a type of bidding system.

When you want to advertise with Google, you select keywords you are targeting. The price is determined by how many companies bid for that particular keyword.

Google does not sell a tangible product, they sell traffic. I am very sure that Google TV has a similar ,search keys and geo targeted advertising (advertising for your locale) strategy in mind for Google TV

Advertising on traditional TV platforms is obviously big business, but in these lean times of double dip recession many agencies and brand advertisers have grown more careful with their ad-spend.

Greg Sterling (2010) a tech blogger for Search Engine land noted:

“In the industry there is a growing resistance and skeptical of network TV “upfront” and lack of “accountability” and targeting on TV. As online advertising is becoming increasingly sophisticated in targeting audiences or market sectors.
In response, there are a number of efforts to create “addressable TV,” where households and TV audiences can be more readily targeted, demographically, by location and so on. There are similar scenarios for GTV as well.” (Sterling, 2010)

The software is made to be customised. Besides Sony and Logitech, who else will build Google TV-capable devices is also up for grabs.

The Group manager for Partnerships at Google and YouTube, Shalini Govil-Pai (2010) said:

Anyone can take it an put it on their device. You can be a Google-certified device and work with us. Or you can take it and (build it into) a fridge if you’d like.”

I am sure Woolworths and Pick n Pay are licking their lips in anticipation.

The main competition to Google TV is Apple TV however the two are fundamentally different in that GTV offers a full internet experience whereas Apple TV thus far limits you to online video and audio. Apple TV has been criticised as merely being a shop front for iTunes online stores. There is also the Rogu set top box which is geared more specifically around Netflix, the online VOD company. They are keep to see the rapid uptake of GTV because unlike Apple TV, it open GL Android source code means that GTV users can easily download and install Rogu on the GTV enabled devices.

As Greg Sterling (2010) points out:
In many ways the “connected TV” market is analogous to mobile. Several years ago very few people got the internet or even some stripped-down version of it on their phones. There was also very little demand for it as well. Today, millions of people access the internet on their mobile devices — roughly 70 million people in the US today. That growth is the result of smartphone price competition and improved user experiences led by the iPhone and later Android.

Does this mean that the subscription television channels are in for stormy weather? Most analysts down play this.
A trend in Europe and the US is that cable TV packages are sold as part of larger product bundles that include internet access. These companies offer enticing discounts and this counters the cable TV “cord cutting” that follows economic downturns.
One of the biggest impacts is that Google TV puts the web in the living room. Browsing the internet is typically a solitary pursuit, is that set to change? Will we be talking about family browsing rather than family viewing in the future? Or is Google TV just another industry hype. As David Pogue (2010), an technology writer for the new York Times points out:

“Now, the idea of bringing the Web to your TV is not a new idea. It’s been kicking around since the Internet was still in pull-ups. But no matter how many times the industry tries to cram Web+TV down our throats, the masses just don’t swallow. That’s probably because when we sit down at the TV, we want to be passive, with brains turned off, and when we surf the Web, we’re in a different mind-set: more active, more directed.”

The true impact of online television remains to be seen. Perhaps the changes will so gradual and insidious that before we know it things will never be the same again but we won’t remember them ever being any different.
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