Thursday, 20 May 2010

Google TV

Talk of Google Android spreading from mobile onto TV is flying around the web. If it happens, what will determine whether "Smart TV" takes the lion's share, or whether it becomes yet another standard among many for connected TV?

Here are seven aspects to consider:

1. Parental Control
It must have parental control built in at the core. It's no good just having one big "content lock" at the entrance, dividing the world into adults and non-adults.

2. DRM
If it's to support a range of business models, it'll need a robust DRM mechanism to protect premium content.

3. Hybrid broadcast and IP
Most households will want to retain access to the broadcast channels that they're familiar with, and the combined experience of existing broadcast and new over-the-top services will work best if it's a unified service. If you have to switch the TV to a different input and use a different box, a number of people won't be bothered to make the transition. If the broadcast and over-the-top services are fully integrated though, that will encourage people to cross the threshold. If it's done well they won't even realise there is a threshold.

4. Quality, not quantity
Consumers don't want more choices, they want better choices. Having more choices means I spend more time looking for something and less time enjoying it. I would pay a premium to have someone else find what I want, so that I can spend the little free time I have to watch, not search.

5. Accuracy
Search results need to be correct! There's a really good Indian restaurant at the end of my road, but when I look on Google Maps I find it marked several streets away. I wonder how many people are Google Navigating their way to dinner and going hungry? Will there be the same problem with TV content searches?

6. Secure integration with other services
It'll need to manage my accounts - e.g. for social networks. I don't want to be logging in here, there and everywhere, again and again. And if it's managing my accounts, it needs to realise that several people use my TV, and give me confidence that it's holding my account details securely.

7. Progressive download
I have a relatively fast broadband connection, but it's not so fast during peak hours, such as in the evening when I want to watch TV. Services need to adapt to different network conditions if they're to reach a wide audience.

Progressive download is a great leveller. With a fast connection you get a true on-demand service with near-instant playback, and if the connection is too slow you may have to wait a while, but at least it's still possible to use the service, and the playback quality is not compromised.

Adaptive bitrate streams are another option, but if I pay to watch an HD movie, I won't be happy if it descends to webcam-level video during busy periods.

So, what does the market think? Will Google TV go mainstream?


Anonymous said...

I think it will go main stream very fast and raise the bar for tv's and stb's like the iphone did for phones.

M0les said...

#4 - Yes, this seems to be one of the problems Boxee has (had?) - Up to the Boxee Box launch last year, I'd get emails from them frequently with things like "We've now got the live chicken wrestling channel on!".

But if there's one thing Google have always done well, it's "search". If they can apply the same sensible behaviour to video search (e.g. Find relevant content and subscribe to recurrent feeds thereof). Adding TiVo-style metadata for "swivel-search" would be a plus.

Dr Rob said...

Thanks M0les - I started to reply here, but it turned into a new post instead.