Here’s what we learn from Nick Bilton’s article for the Times:
- Google is working on a platform called Google TV with Sony and Intel.
- It’s based on Google’s Android OS, and will be open source.
- Users will be able to do Web stuff like search, plus watch Web video from sites like YouTube, and maybe Hulu.
- Google and Intel want to move into the TV business, where they have little presence. Sony wants to compete with Vizio on something other than price.
- Google wants software companies to write apps for Google TV, the same way they do for Android phones.
- Logitech is teaming up for peripherals, including a remote with a tiny keyboard.
- The companies are hiring for Android-related jobs.
- Google obviously wants to put ads on this system.
- Google has built a prototype set-top box, but the software might be built straight on to TV sets.
- Google TV will use a special version of Google’s Chrome browser.
- Sony may develop a new brand for TVs running Google TV.
This seems like a decent opportunity for Google, though it’s not like Google is first-to-market here. Yahoo already has a similar platform called Yahoo TV Widgets, which has had some* success since launching last year. (Sony is one of the manufacturers that use it, in addition to Samsung, LG, and Vizio.)
But generally, like in the mobile phone business, TV makers should always be thinking about better software. Perhaps Google’s will be a step above Yahoo’s. And if Google can skip ahead of cable and satellite providers to place ads in front of your eyeballs, all the better.
Biggest hurdle: These TVs will probably be significantly more expensive to make than the cheap TVs people want to buy, which could limit adoption.
We’ve heard from industry sources that TV makers will “kill” to shave a few dollars off the cost of TVs. We can’t imagine these Intel chips or Sony TVs being cheaper than the competition. Plus any other components these TVs need. Best case for Google is that maybe the software will be good enough that people will want to spend more for it — especially if it can eventually help you cut your cable TV subscription — and that it can pick up adoption that way.
But it’s far-fetched to assume that this will be built into EVERY television set sold in the near future.
What about Apple, Google’s new big rival?
At an investor conference last month, Apple COO Tim Cook said the company has “no interest in being in the TV market.” Given Apple’s tendency to say one thing and then do the exact opposite, this suggests Apple will either continue to stay out of the TV market, or will come out with a TV in a year and proclaim that it’s the greatest TV of all time.
* Update: Yahoo reaches out to inform us that its Widget platform is doing better than the “limited success” we first wrote. Specifically, it’ll be on 5 million TVs in 16 countries by Q2. And 35 apps are available for the platform, with 80 expected by the summer. These aren’t huge numbers, but they’re not bad. It’s very early in this game.
Don’t miss: Apple’s War With Google Heats Up →