Analyst Questions Google TV Service

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Google TV could be an exciting new search and video service or it could be just another Web TV experience with a tepid reception

Google TV is an effort to funnel search, video, Twitter and other Web applications through set-top boxes and onto televisions. Google has made a prototype set-top box based on its Android operating system, powered by Intel’s Atom processors and tested on televisions made by Sony.

The platform will use a version of the Google Chrome Web browser, letting users search the Web and video content just as if they were accessing the Web from their desktops and mobile phones. Users would access these applications from a remote control with a small keyboard from peripheral device maker Logitech.

Combined, these elements would form a media platform allowing users to access Web applications such as YouTube and Twitter and watch satellite TV programming from the Dish Network.

However, Gartner analyst Van Baker isn’t impressed, having watched many products and services geared to blend TV and Web fail. “There is only one problem with this vision,” Baker wrote on his blog on 18 March. “Consumers have repeatedly rejected these solutions. Consumers have a perfectly good platform for accessing the Internet and that is the personal computer. Bringing PC-style access to the television is just not appealing to consumers.”

Baker isn’t saying couch potatoes don’t want some combination of Web and TV. Thousands of consumers watch Netflix movies or YouTube clips on Web-enabled TVs instead of the smaller screens of their PCs. “The combination of video content and quick hit content like news headline and weather that can be accessed via a traditional remote are valued by consumers assuming the performance is adequate and the services are responsive,” Baker wrote.

However, he said, bringing a keyboard into the equation reverts to the PC model of Internet access, something which consumers have not yet cottoned to. Can Google TV break from this history of hybrid-Web-and-TV failure?

This remains to be seen. Consumers do love to surf the Web while watching TV, according to new research from Nielsen, which found that about 60 percent of TV watchers simultaneously use the Internet once a month.

Perhaps Google TV will be a platform that lets users easily jump back and forth between watching their favorite television shows and accessing their favorite Web applications from their 52-inch plasma TVs with just a few clicks of a remote.

That could be quite powerful. So could the application ecosystem supporting it. Since Google TV is built on the Android, it seems likely third-party developers will be able to build applications that TV-loving consumers would appreciate.

However this shapes up, IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds agreed there has to be a whole different user experience to make this offering attractive. “This announcement shows the lengths that Google will go to crack into the TV advertising segment, and it demonstrates their dedication to the strategy of providing infrastructure to reap the benefits of multiple application options which they and others will build to run on their platform,” Reynolds told eWEEK.

While Apple and Microsoft have been in the game longer, Google TV may offer the right combination of programming and Web applications users have been wanting from convergent Web television.

“No one has a lock on how this convergence of TV and Web will develop,” Reynolds said.

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