Specifically, Google wants to turn your TV into a computer. Apple says people specifically don’t want computers on their TV. Who will win?
Apple made it clear today that it’s trying to complement the gadgets that are already in your living room and hooked up to your TV. Apple TV is an add-on — it’s basically there to provide a few extra streaming features, in addition to your cable box and video game console.
It doesn’t have an app store, it doesn’t have games, and it doesn’t have a web browser. It’s slick but not complex. It’s all about trying to ease people into the idea of using an Internet device in their living room. It’s not a computer.
[People] “don’t want a computer on their TV,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said today. “They have computers. They go to their wide-screen TVs for entertainment. Not to have another computer. This is a hard one for people in the computer industry to understand, but it’s really easy for consumers to understand. They get it.”
Meanwhile, Google is trying to invade the living room and take over. Google TV is a huge, ambitious attempt to make Google the focal point of your TV experience. It sits between your cable box and your TV, tells your DVR what to record, searches the web, and seems to add a lot of complexity to your entertainment experience.
For an analogy, in terms of ambition, Apple TV feels like Twitter, and Google TV feels like Google Wave. (This is just based on observations; not based on using either of the new devices.)
Analyst Michael Gartenberg sums it up nicely on Twitter: “Apple and Google taking two different approaches. Google wants input one. Will never get it. Apple wants input two and might.”
He’s referring to the input jacks on your TV set. Google is trying to replace your cable box or satellite TV box as “input one.” That’s really ambitious, and a big risk. Apple wants “input two,” where your DVD player is today, or your PlayStation. That seems more attainable.
So let’s handicap the two, based on what we’ve seen so far:
Google has a very small chance of totally taking over the TV business — which would be a massive coup — and a huge chance of completely failing. (Sort of like its Nexus One phone was a big bet to disrupt the mobile phone industry, which wound up flopping.)
Apple TV, meanwhile, has a good chance of continuing as an obscure, niche device. But if enough people take a flier on the $99 Apple TV, Apple also has a solid chance of teaching people about the idea of using an Internet device in their living room, and it can gradually make the box more complex. This seems like a safer bet, if less disruptive.
The battle is on this November. Who’s going to win?
Related: Apple TV Now Slightly Less Boring