Does Google’s “GPhone” Android operating system have a life beyond mobile phones? Anything’s possible. But will it be running your cable TV set-top box any time soon? Probably not.
Google (GOOG) supposedly has ambitious plans for Android. VentureBeat thinks it could become a “universal operating system that will span set-top boxes for televisions, mp3 players and other communication and media devices and services,”
We’ve heard somewhat similar things — specifically, that there’s a team at Google playing around with Android on set-top boxes.
But even if the Android ends up running your phone, we don’t exepct to see it running your TV. Why not?
First, because there aren’t really many mainstream applications that would draw huge demand on both your mobile phone and your television. A YouTube client or DVR programming app? Maybe. Weather and stocks? Sure, we guess. But those aren’t too far-fetched to appear on existing smartphones and set-top boxes — no need for an overhaul.
More important, it’s hard to see the slow-moving, defensive cable industry overhauling its set-top boxes at Google’s behest. Motorola (MOT) and Cisco (CSCO), the dominant U.S. set-top box sellers, also push software. So why would they embrace a Google OS? Meanwhile, will Android widgets make you watch more TV? Probably not. So we doubt they’re at the top of Comcast’s (CMCSA) list of capex-eaters.
To be sure, with new set-top box technologies on the way like Tru2Way, which promises to let you watch cable using more devices, a consumer electronics company could conceivably make an Android-powered set-top box that hooks up to your cable TV and Internet service. But we don’t see many people paying several hundred dollars up-front to buy a set-top box when it’s easier to keep renting one from the cable company. See: TiVo.
While we’re having fun speculating, it’s possible Google will someday orchestrate a massive set-top-box/cable/wireless coup with the cable industry as part of their Clearwire (CLWR) tie-up for mobile broadband. But that’s eons away, if ever.
In the meantime, we think it makes sense for Google to poke around in the fast-changing smartphone industry, where new players can quickly make a splash — see: Apple — and where Google is dreaming of a massive advertising market. And it makes sense for Google to experiment with using its platforms on other devices, such as set-top boxes. But we don’t see an Android cable box in every living room any time soon.
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