Google and Apple have been circling each other like mountain lions looking for the right place to bite first.
Apple has been winning in music, devices, and mobile.
Google has been winning in Search, Advertising, and web apps.
But – today – the gloves come off. There is going to be a big, messy battle of the titans – think Mothra Vs. Godzilla. And it’s going to take place in your living room.
Google was first out of the gate with the announcement of Google TV. As I’ve written about HERE, GTV embraces the Android ‘open’ software solution. Google did some big partnerships early on with Intel and Sony – and this year’s CES will be the critical moment for Google – will the floor be filled with GTV enabled screens and devices? If so – they’ be off to the races. If not, Uh Oh.
But now – in Waltzs Apple, who’s widely expected to announce iTV – a brand new $99 box that will come with a whole bunch of Hollywood and TV Network deals baked in. Apple’s done this before with music, and it sure sounds like their tearing around Hollywood with a carrot and a big stick.
Already we seem to know some things about iTV that make it the leader in the web to living room race.
First, the price – it’s awesome. For $99 there will be lots of apple loyalists who will sign up. And because it is powered by the iphone/ipad OS – it will be able to be controlled and interacted with by your other Apple devices. And because of Job’s relationship with ABC/Disney – expect ABC to be on board. CBS/Viacom would be another likely suspect – as they can’t very well pick Google (whom they continue to sue over YouTube). But you can expect Netflix, Hulu Plus, and others like HBO and Showtime – all safe guesses
Make no mistake about it – this is a battle with a lot at stake.
And folks like NBC – now with an owner with a huge stake in the existing cable infrastructure – aren’t likely to be offering up their content to any ‘over the top’ technology or box that makes your cable box (and your cable bill) obsolete.
Here’s how I think you can handicap the battle.
Apple wins on look and feel, and on content (and presentation of content). Apple looses on the old Apple TV – which was disappointing. And it’s a closed system – so it begs the question of what happens to folks like Blip.TV, MyDamnChannel, and other free web based video program sources.
Google wins on devices. Sony is ready for a hit. Google wins BIG on being able to ‘support’ content makers with ready access to new advertising revenue and technology. So owners of mid-tail content are going to be lured by offers of new revenue.
What’s at stake here? A TON.
Engadget also published anonymous info on iTV. The report said the new Apple TV would feature internals similar to the iPhone 4 (such as an A4 CPU and on-board flash storage. Oh, and one more thing – did we mention games? Apple has been out of the game business mostly – other than the games on the iPhone and iPad -which is to say they’ve been on every platform except the living room. This would change that.
On last big puzzle – if iTV ha no storage, so it’s truly a ‘cloud’ device, apple will have to pull a rabbit out of its hat. Users of Apples cloud offering .Me have reported consistent problems with reliability of the service. So – hopefully they’ve got a whole new cloud offering to back this up.
But then again – as Digg founder Kevin Rose said on his blog a few days ago – a connection to the living room could ‘close the loop’ on Apple’s image capture / sharing where it is already a champ. Said Rose; “MobileMe Picture/Video sharing: At $99 your parents, grandparents, and friends will have an iTV. Sharing pictures/videos from your iPhone will happen with the push of a button. Imagine getting a notification of new family videos the next time you turn on your TV. My mum will love this feature.”
Overall – Mothra vs. Godzilla. Good times.
Steve Rosenbaum is founder and CEO of Magnify.net, a NYC-based Web video startup. Follow Steve on Twitter @Magnify.
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