I don't need 10 reasons why Google TV will succeed

Three are enough: Search, advertising and Android. But if you need seven more: Google, Google, Google, Google, Google, Google, Google.

Last night, while reading news on my Nexus S, I came across this little ditty: "Google TV Is Failing: 10 Reasons Why," by freelancer Don Reisinger, writing for eWeek. Judging from Reisinger's eWeek profile, he seemingly only writes top-10 lists. His reasons appear to be sensible but lack depth regarding the consumer electronics industry, Google or television networks. Google is as committed to television as it is to mobile -- and look how well Chrome and Android are doing two years out of the gate.

The problem right now with Google TV isn't the product but bloggers and journalists spouting off rumors and nonsense and Google failing to respond to them. Google product managers had better get off their duffs and defend their TV software soon, lest the rabble writing top-10 lists creates negative perceptions that could stall Google TV's adoption among manufacturers and content partners. What incentive does Hulu have, for example, to deal with Google if the Reisingers of the InterWeb predict failure?

The Google TV rumors and innuendo are deafening. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google had asked its TV manufacturing partners to pull their products from next week's Consumer Electronics Show. Over the Christmas holiday, new rumors spread like wildfire about Google asking Logitech to either suspend production or shipments of the Google TV-based Revue. Yesterday, Logitech responded in a statement and also blog post by Ashish Arora, vice president of the Digital Home Group, denying any Revue suspension. "Suggestions that production of the Logitech Revue companion box might need to be halted to address software issues are unfounded," according to Logitech's statement. Now why can't Google be as explicit? It's long past time for Google to defend itself against the top-10 marauders and rumormongers.

Bad Tech Reviews?

Yesterday, I recorded a segment for Tech Night Owl Live that will air New Years Day. Host Gene Steinberg and I got into an argument about Google TV, which he hasn't experienced, the bad reviews and networks blocking content. This morning, I looked for those bad reviews and didn't really find them. Yes, Google TV failed to get the seal of approval of hugely influential tech columnist Walt Mossberg. He writes: "For now, I'd relegate Google TV to the category of a geek product, not a mainstream, easy solution ready for average users. It's too complicated, in my view, and some of its functions fall short."

But different reviewers have different experiences. Mossberg writes: "I was similarly frustrated by finding and using regular TV shows from my cable box. Unless you have a box from Dish network, Google TV can't search in your recorded shows, or allow you, when it finds a show coming up, to set it to record." That's not my experience. I have AT&T U-verse, which runs Microsoft's MediaRoom software, and Google TV could search for TV programs and schedule them to record them just fine. Mossberg and I both tested the Logitech Revue. I gave my first-impressions "I love my Google TV" review on December 26. Mossberg's review posted on November 18. Perhaps the user experience changed between our reviews. Logitech's Arora emphasized the benefits of "software updates."

Engadget's October 29th review more reflects my experience. Nilay Patel writes:

Google TV is a success. Features like the search bar and integrated browser are so fundamentally good on a conceptual level that they seem destined to forever change our perception of TV user experience, regardless of how well Google TV itself fares in the market, and that's no small accomplishment. Other features, like apps and smartphone control, seem equally ambitious and worthy of praise because of promise alone.

But Patel acknowledges rough edges I will concede: "The problem, of course, is that it's really execution that counts, and little else. By that much more exacting standard, Google TV feels like an incomplete jumble of good ideas only half-realized, an unoptimized box of possibility that suffers under the weight of its own ambition and seemingly rushed holiday deadline."

Betanews Reader Reviews

Betanews readers responding to my two Google TV posts during the last week generally raved about the product. Stephen Schwartz writes:

I own the Sony Television version of Google TV and I love it with the exception of the remote. Very cumbersome to use the mouse/touch pad thingy. Other than that, I use it every day for surfing, and playing flash games. Also the sites that have converted to a Google TV wide large HTML 5 format (USA Today and NY Times are a couple) look great. I really believe in Google and believe that if something is not baked 100 percent yet, they will keep striving until it is 200 percent to 300 percent perfect. (doesn't anybody remember the first release of Gmail -- look at it now).

He makes the right point about Gmail. Look at how the service has evolved or how quickly Google has iterated Android and Chrome over two years. Betanews reader Murray Hill writes: "I think that all the various news media types give [p]oor reviews of the Google TV have not even tried it themselves...According to my neighborhood Best Buy sales dudes and duddess, they have not seen any returns on the GTV products."

Commenter lindafus writes:

I just received the Logitech Revue for Christmas and set it up today. I have not been able to put it down. It hooked up easily to my Dish network 722 -- Samsung LN46A850 -- and Sony Soundbar and PS3. I am loving this device and have no clue why anyone would give it bad reviews. It is great to be able to watch movies and surf the net and control it all with one controller! I would recommend this to anyone who loves their internet and TV to be all in one! I have not found any bugs yet.

Saadbox13 writes: "Same here we simply love it! Don't understand how googletv got bad reviews in the first place, we did not buy it to watch cable on demand, if that's what you were expecting it is definitely not for you."

But not all Betanews readers buying a Google TV device shared this enthusiasm. Commenter sir-isaac griped:

Most of the channels I was hoping to watch ended up blocking Google TV, I was under the impression Google has some arrangements with content providers but now I know they were just 'hoping' they won't block because it's "Google", I have no idea what they were thinking. It's consumers who put up hard cash to buy these that ended up paying for this little experiment.

It's true that major networks are blocking browser-streamed content on Google TV. Commenter dc2003va has a temporary fix for sir-issac's viewing problems: "If you go to the setting for the Chrome browser simply change the user agent to "DESKTOP" and it will unblock most of the channels. The only things that are still blocked will be Hulu and ABC (they are using adobe Flash signature to block)."

Three Reasons

Now for those three reasons against Reisinger's 10:

1. Search. Television is ripe for Google's core competency. Search can unify video content broadcast live, streamed from the Web or recorded locally. Right now, search on television is about as bad as it was on the Web circa 1999. Google TV search has flaws, which isn't surprising for a version 1 product, but it works a helluva lot better than search does (in my experience) on Comcast, Cox and U-verse services. The search experience reminds me of the "wow" using TiVo, back when most people couldn't understand DVR benefits without using it. Many early reviews described the ability to pause live programming or record shows from a program guide as "life changing." Google search for the TV is simular, IMHO.

2. Advertising. As I explained in February post "Google TV is all about blood sucking television ad spending," the search and informational giant is looking to extend its advertising and search reach to the living room. That's no easy task:

To push into the living room, Google is going to have to push somebody out. As Microsoft learned -- and even TiVo -- that's not so easy. Cable and telco providers covet their subscription fees and local advertising revenues. Surely the big networks will fight against Google's free economy, which could reduce the value of their ad space. Why pay networks big bucks when Google will sell ad space for much less?

I'm not surprised then that some networks are blocking Google TV from receiving streamed content. According to MagnaGlobal, US television advertising revenue is more than double online ad revenue, something the firm predicts won't change during the next four years. But Google wants some of those ad dollars, and Google TV is a way to get them. Perseverance has paid off for Google before.

3. Android. Google's operating system opens the possibility of many useful and convient applications on the TV. I'm simply shocked Apple doesn't make apps widely available for its iOS-based TV product. Apps on television might seem strange at first, but what are console games but applications consumed on the TV? Surely Google will seek to unify the Android mobile experience (beyond acting as remote control) to Android in the living room. For the Millennial generation or older, busy professionals, there is opportunity to play games, while watching that slow-moving football game broadcast in a minibox (and to rewind and watch interesting plays) and in another window monitor traffic spikes to the work network.

If Google iterates its TV software as quickly as Android or Chrome, the rough edges will smooth out quickly. I agree with Engadget's Patel. "Google TV is a success," or soon will be -- that is if the Internet rabble doesn't generate brand damaging negative perceptions first. Google should defend its software. What irony. The naysayers subsist off the pageviews and advertising driven by the Google-free economy.

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