Yesterday LG revealed that it’ll be bringing a new Google TV-enabled 3D set with it to CES 2012. The news marks round two for Google TV, having thus far struggled to make a name for itself in the Smart TV market. With lofty claims suggesting it’s now Google TV’s time to shine, how can it do enough to beat Apple’s upcoming offering?
Speaking at LeWeb in Paris last month, Eric Schmidt made a pretty bold statement. He said: “by the summer of 2012, the majority of the televisions you see in stores will have Google TV embedded.” Really? Seemed pretty mad to us, given that Google TV had failed to make any sort of impact up until then. But then Schmidt Obviously knew something we didn’t.
The wheels are in motion
LG has smelted together its own Smart TV service with the best of the Android-powered Google TV. Its set will offer social networking, video conferencing abilities and integration with YouTube and Google services, but you can bet that it won’t be the only company to do so in the near future.
If Google’s suddenly putting faith back into the service and a major manufacturer is on board, you can bet that many more will be on board too.
The return of Google TV is in full swing then. But why? Let’s just say it’s no coincidence that all this is happening while Apple’s putting the finishing touches to its own TV sets. Like Google’s hitherto lame duck, Apple TV has never been more than a wacky side-project for the company. It’s been polished to an extent, but it’s always fallen down at the very first hurdle: content. As in, it doesn’t really have any.
Apples and oranges
This year that’s going to change. The hive mind has predicted that Apple’s TV sets will have an integrated service that combines iTunes movies with content from the likes of the BBC, ITV, Netflix and maybe even exclusive rights to professional sports such as the Barclays Premier League.
If you’re Google, that’s a pretty serious threat. Let’s not forget that the reason Google TV was born in the first place was to offer a rival to Apple’s set-top box. Both services went into a weird sort of war where neither product really won and no one was that interested in the result anyway.
But now they’ve both gone away, trained all night to the Rocky soundtrack and, within the first few months of 2012, will come back swinging.
But they’re going to be swinging in two completely different styles. Apple’s offering, like most things it does, will be pretty swish. If you believe all the rumours, it’ll launch with a range of three different sized sets that offer a decent amount of content with a simple UI and connectivity to iPhones, iPads and Macs. Clean and efficient. Very Apple.
Infiltrating your living room
Google has never really ‘got’ user interface design and out-of-the-box swishness in the same way that Apple has, so Google TV is going to have to sell itself to you in a completely different way.
And here’s how: it’ll infiltrate your living room without you really realising it or actively choosing it.
Most TV manufacturers will be just as scared of Apple TV as Google is, and the way they’ll fight it is through solidarity. LG has started a trend that’s likely to see Google TV infiltrate almost all TV sets. You’ll buy Google TV because (other than Apple) you won’t have any other choice. You’ll buy Google TV because you’ll buy a TV.
And this must be what Schmidt was talking about. Behind closed doors, Google must have inked a a hefty chunk of the world’s biggest TV manufacturers to provide at least some element of their Smart service inside every set sold.
These manufacturers would be paying Google in some form to bring you YouTube apps anyway, so why not go the whole hog and just let Google provide the rest of the Smart infrastructure?
All for one
In a market that would otherwise be Apple Vs Sharp Vs LG Vs Panasonic Vs whoever else, it’s a mutually beneficial move for everyone that isn’t Apple to get into bed with Google.
It’s exactly the same as how Android phones are overtaking the iPhone: there’s three kinds of iPhone facing hundreds of Android handsets.
Fragmentation has always been an issue with Android, but in TV sets having Android built in will be a big selling point. ‘You know that cool Google TV app your friend’s TV has? We’ve got that too!’ And that’s not to mention the fact that most of these TV Manufacturers also make Android phones themselves, making cross-platform control a breeze.
The average TV buyer will end up with a widely supported Smart TV platform almost regardless of which set they end up buying. We as consumers win, the manufacturers win in that they have less of a developer support issue, and Google wins big by virtue of being bloody everywhere.
Apple will sell TVs by the bucket-load – make no mistake about that – but if every other TV on the market is stuffed with the second coming of Google TV, then that’ll win out through nothing but larger numbers and a wider range of price-points.
It’s an all-out assault that Schmidt tried to warn us about before we were ready to believe him, but with CES looming and Google TV once again making headlines, maybe it’s time we all paid a bit more attention to Apple’s biggest TV rival.